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Veterans Affairs’ secretary weighs commercial options to replace aging EHR system

Summary

Congress wants interoperability with Defense Department; V.A. needs funding to get there.

Newswire: May 2, 2017.

Dateline: Washington.

The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress that his administration needs funding to replace its aging and outdated electronic health records (EHR) system, and that all options including commercial off-the-shelf solutions are on the table.

Dr. David Shulkin, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, told a House of Representatives subcommittee on Wednesday that options include either contracting with a private company to take over and support the VA’s EHR functions, “or we’re going to go to an off-the-shelf product.”

Shulkin told the committee that the V.A .”has to get out of the business of being a software developer.” Currently, more than 130 versions of the V.A.’s EHR system — the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA — are in use.

Dr. Shulkin said that VistA, invented by V.A. developers, was once “the leader in electronic health records. But, frankly, that’s old news.”

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), the chairman of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, said the VA has to ensure that its EHR solution and system works for all veterans. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) noted that the government had spent $1.4 billion to improve electronic health records maintenance yet has seen little return for it.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), called the V.A. the weak link in the goal of V.A.-Defense Department interoperability. “To not have that available to our healthcare providers is pretty inexcusable,” he said.

Dr. Shulkin said the agency was working to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which required VA and DOD electronic health records to be integrated with the same display of data. Shulkin said the V.A. had complied with this but its solution, the Joint Legacy Viewer, “is not the complete interoperbility that I think all of us would hope for.”

The V.A. will make a decision on replacing VistA in July, Dr. Shulkin said.

Read the full story here.

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