Common VA-DOD health record interface nearing completion

The first milestone for the upcoming joint Veterans Affairs and Defense Department electronic health record platform is a common graphical user interface to be in place by July, according to W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary for the VA.

A prototype interface already has been developed, Gould told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 18.

The user interface provides the front end and a point-of-entry for physicians to interact with the digital medical record system, he said.

The VA-DOD program to develop a common electronic health record system has kicked into high gear in recent weeks, following a February 2011 critical report from the Government Accountability Office that suggested the two departments did not have an effective joint strategy.

The GAO concerns were legitimate, Gould said, and as a result the VA and DOD secretaries met and committed to a joint electronic platform for health records.

The prototype development should “give this committee confidence that we are heading down the right road,” Gould said. Once it is fully tested and implemented, the user interface will provide to both VA and DOD doctors that ability to optimize their use off the system to treat patients, he added.

Other milestones for the joint system in the coming months include instituting a single computer sign-on for VA and DOD staffers utilizing the digital medical records system at the James Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago. That facility opened in November 2010 as the first in the country that has been established as a joint VA and DOD medical center.

Overall, by June 2012 there will be “significant functionality shared between VA and DOD,” Gould added.

William Lynn III, deputy secretary of defense, who also testified, said the joint development approach will utilize commercial components whenever possible. It will be led by a program executive and deputy director selected by both VA and DOD secretaries and overseen by an advisory board co-chaired by the DOD deputy chief management officer and the VA assistant secretary for information and technology.

“Developing large-scale IT systems is difficult for any organization, public or private," Lynn said in his testimony. "Jointly developing an interoperable system across two major federal departments is more difficult still. To the extent that other large joint IT systems have succeeded, they have based on a common data foundation, common service bus, and common service broker."

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