Who should reconcile differences in VA and DOD EHR?

Sept. 17, 2018

Now that the Veterans Affairs Department’s contract with Cerner is inked, and the rollout gets underway, oversight groups are warning that differences in the VA and the DoD’s EHR (electronic health record) implementations will complicate their plan to create an interoperable system. But during the inaugural hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization Sept. 13, officials and lawmakers disagreed about whose responsibility it is to reconcile those differences.

Subcommittee chair Rep. Jim Banks said that the two departments should clarify the powers of the Interagency Program Office—set up in 2008 to oversee their EHR collaboration—and empower it to resolve their differences.

But Lauren Thompson, the current head of the interagency office and John Windom, who leads the VA’s EHR implementation office, said IPO was serving as a facilitator and lacked the actual clout that Congress legally provided it a decade ago. Without more resources, staff and authority it can do no more, Thompson said.

Carol Harris, who leads IT acquisition issues at the Government Accountability Office, said in a report and testimony that DoD and the VA have ignored GAO’s advice over the years on empowering the IPO. Now, she said, they must clearly define its role.

No single person is accountable for the joint project’s success, she said. Congress could relieve the IPO of its legal responsibilities, but one way or another “a single point of accountability is critical,” she added.

Banks and Rep. Conor Lamb indicated they wanted IPO to get the power it needs to be that central decision point, but Rep. Mike Coffman said he preferred making either the VA or DoD the final arbiter.

Politico has the story

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