US Department of Veterans Affairs

Interoperability among electronic health records is an issue that has been plaguing patients, physicians and the health IT industry from the very beginning. In an effort to improve on this issue within the government, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) will soon be launching a new EHR interface, which has been designed to work seamlessly with the Department of Defense’s (DOD) EHR. This new project, called the Enterprise Health Management Platform (eHMP), is meant to improve the interoperability between the two departments and develop a more efficient process for communication and data exchange. If the eHMP interface succeeds, this could potentially get the ball rolling on a similar design for EHRs across the board.

The current system in place for the VA is the Veterans Health Information and Technology Architecture (VistA) EHR, which will be enhanced by eHMP. The web-based platform utilizes apps and widgets as a method of sharing patients’ medical records. It will enable providers to have access to the data from multiple locations and allow them to customize how they use their EHR. They will be able to track specific conditions, identify care plans, and adjust the timeframes of patient medical histories. Gathering information from all sources, rather than just those related to the VA and DOD, the eHMP interface will provide a comprehensive view of a patient’s healthcare background. The new platform will be tested at locations in Oregon and Texas beginning this July and should be implemented across all VA facilities by 2017.

“What we have not always done, and we are creating now, is a system for providers at the point of care, taking care of veterans that natively integrates all of the data from both sides,” said David Waltman, senior advisor for information strategy at the Veterans Health Administration, at a demo of the program last week.

Another bonus feature of eHMP includes the software development kit (SDK) the VA plans on producing, which is intended to facilitate improvement. The SDK will provide developers the ability to easily create and alter various apps and widgets as needed, which will allow the system to be quickly optimized for the department.

The VA is not the only one looking to make some changes. Since 2004, the DOD has used a system called AHLTA for their electronic medical record purposes; however, in 2013, they announced they would be searching for alternatives to their current EHR, for which they are currently evaluating new vendors. The selection has been narrowed down to three competitors: IBM with Epic; Cerner with Leidos and Accenture Federal, and Computer Sciences Corp., with HP and Allscripts. They expect to announce their selected vendor sometime this summer.

The subject of interoperability between the VA and DOD has often come up in the past, usually with a negative connotation. Both departments have been working on improving their EHR systems for several years. Back in 2011, they had planned a joint interface for their EHR that would integrate both systems to create a cohesive structure. However, according to Fierce EMR, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is not satisfied with health IT efforts made by government agencies, saying they are not meeting expectations. More than $80 billion is invested in these programs every year and the results have not been adequate for the amount of money being spent. As the VA and DOD continue their respective projects, this is a subject they will need to keep in mind. Only time will tell whether the eHMP interface and new DOD EHR system will measure up to expectations.

Author: Apoorva Anupindi

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