Congress remains concerned about the future of VA health record interoperability

The George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City. (Veterans Health Administration / Flickr)

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As the Department of Veterans Affairs approaches the launch of its new electronic health record program, lawmakers continue to worry about the future rollout of the program and its interoperability with the Department of Defense’s health record modernization efforts.

Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Technology Modernization Subcommittee expressed concern Wednesday over the VA’s ability to meet its timeline for launching the modernized EHR at hospitals around the country and how well it will work with the military’s new system, as its deployment lags behind that of DOD’s Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS.

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the subcommittee’s ranking member, requested a revamped timeline from the VA to ensure that it will be able to be interoperable with the DOD’s during a hearing on the EHR’s modernization progress.

“I have some serious concerns about its future course,” Banks said during the hearing.

The programs are being developed under the same Cerner EHR platform with the ultimate plan to create interoperability between them so service members’ health records can seamlessly transition from DOD to the VA upon retirement.

The VA plans to launch the initial instance of the EHR in late October at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. This go-live date has already been pushed back twice due to a lack of training and impacts of the ongoing pandemic.

After the first major launch in Washington, the VA plans to update the IT systems of dozens of centers over the next several years. Eventually, more than 100 centers will transition to the Cerner-based cloud platform.

While pleased to hear VA will start rolling out the platform, lawmakers didn’t like how out-of-sync VA’s timeline is with the DOD’s.

“EHR and MHS GENESIS are now on completely different tracks,” Banks said, adding that the initial timeline of VA’s EHR rollout was a “best guess” and an “aspiration.”

VA officials have faith in the work being done for the launch at the first hospital in late October, adding that the initial launch will offer helpful insights for rolling the platform out at other facilities across the country.

“I am very confident about our success forthcoming,” John Windom, head of the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, told lawmakers. He added that “we are training up to the last moment, we are testing up to the last moment.”

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Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), electronic health records (EHRs), interoperability, Jim Banks, MHS GENESIS
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