Hearing Points to Continued Lack of Interoperability for VA EHR

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is still struggling to move along interoperability capabilities for its electronic health record (EHR) system. Legislators expressed frustration with the situation at a Military construction, Veterans affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing in the House Appropriations committee, according to an article in HealthITInteroperability.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), who presided over the hearing, questioned VA leaders about the expected arrival of full interoperability for the EHR system, frustrated that the agency is still not able to share a complete view of patient health records, according to the article. With the abilities of modern EHRs continuing to advance, offering such benefits and predictive analytics that could predict—and potentially prevent—suicides, legislators are impatient for the VA to advance their technology to a point where they can take advantage of these opportunities to improve the care of veterans.

The current VA timeline projects completion of the VistA Evolution program in fiscal year 2018, according to testimony from Valerie C. Melvin, director of information management and technology resources issues at the Government Accountability Office. However, the agency might need to reevaluate how it plans to meet EHR needs beyond fiscal year 2018.

“A modernized VA electronic health record system that is fully interoperable with DOD’s [the Department of Defense] system is still years away. Thus important questions remain about when VA intends to define the extent of interoperability it needs to provide the highest possible quality of care to its patients, as well as how and when the department intends to achieve this extent of interoperability with DOD,” Melvin said.

LaVerne H. Council, CIO at the VA, also testified on the progress that the agency has made. “Health data interoperability with DoD and network providers is important—but it is equally important to understand that this is just one aspect of having a comprehensive profile to streamline and unify the Veteran experience,” Council said.

To download the testimonies of several witnesses at the hearing, visit http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-to-review-the-va-electronic-health-record-network-vista.

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