The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon need to better track their efforts to share health information, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
The Interagency Program Office, which is supposed coordinate efforts to promote interoperability between the two agencies, has issued a guidance that calls for tracking metrics related to data standardization. But the office hasn’t set metrics that would allow officials to gauge interoperability implementation and how it affects health care services for patients in both systems. That has to change, said the report.
“Without ensuring that outcome-oriented metrics and related goals are defined and incorporated into the current approach, the departments and the IPO will not be positioned to assess and report on the status of interoperability-related activities and determine areas that need improvement,” authors of the report wrote.
DOD and VA have been working for almost two decades to make their records more interoperable. They abandoned earlier plans to create an integrated electronic health record platform. But since then, VA has been working to update its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, known as VistA, while DOD has been pursuing is own modernization program, recently awarding a multimillion-dollar electronic health records contract.
The watchdog agency acknowledged the agencies have made some strides in improving the interoperability of their health records. That said, the departments blew an Oct. 1, 2014, deadline set by the National Defense Authorization Act to ensure that their systems’ health care data complied with national standards, according to the report. They are also expected to hit several system modernization benchmarks after the December 2016 target established by the NDAA.
Together, the two agencies serve 16 million veterans and active duty service members and their beneficiaries, at more than $100 billion a year, according to the report.
In responses issued to the GAO’s report, DOD and VA generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.