Pentagon and VA End Billion-Dollar Electronic Health Records Project

Sunday, February 10, 2013
Eric Shinseki and Leon Panetta (photo: va.gov)

Despite several years’ worth of positive progress reports and more than $1 billion, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) last week announced they are abandoning their attempt to create a unified, shared electronic health-records system for service members and veterans. Begun in 2008, the project was intended to help ease the health care aspects of the transition from military to civilian life. Now, DoD and VA say merging the existing systems presents a faster, cheaper path toward eventual integration of medical records.

 

Anticipating likely criticism, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta emphasized the imminent benefits of the decision: “Rather than building a single, integrated system from scratch, we will focus our immediate efforts on integrating VA and DOD health data as quickly as possible by upgrading our existing systems,” said Panetta after a meeting Tuesday with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at VA headquarters.

 

Reaction from Capitol Hill was critical. Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vermont), chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, released a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” because “an integrated record would allow for a streamlined and timely claims process, faster decisions on benefits, less duplication in medical testing and more efficient, cost-effective treatment for both physical and mental health needs.”

 

On the House side, Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-Florida), and ranking member Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), likewise criticized the decision. “We have just witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain,” Michaud lamented.

 

The VA and Pentagon, however, argue that they can provide immediate results for troops and veterans, instead of waiting years for a fully integrated records system. Files containing basic information on prescriptions, lab results and doctor visits should be available in a common format on both departments’ health information systems by the end of 2013.

 

“This approach is affordable, achievable, and if we refocus our efforts we believe we can achieve the key goal of a seamless system for health records between VA and DOD on a greatly accelerated schedule,” Panetta said.

 

They also insist that they will create a fully integrated system, as President Barack Obama promised four years ago. “The two departments still intend to create a single electronic health record,” a VA spokesman said.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Retreat by VA and DoD on Electronic Health Records Criticized (by Steve Vogel, Washington Post)

Effort to Integrate DOD, VA Medical Records Draws Criticism (by Leo Shane III, Stars & Stripes)

Health Dept. Distributed $3.6 Billion to Doctors and Hospitals to Computerize Records without a Single Audit (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Comments

RJohnson 6 years ago
Someone needs to explain all these multi-million /billion dollar software failures. It seems between VA & DOD the federal debt would be much healthier had this money not been wasted. Is this a form of corporate welfare or what?

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