Senate Passes Bill Targeting VA EHR Improvement Efforts

The Senate passed a bill (HR 2029) that details funding requirements for the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to improve its electronic health record and make it more interoperable with the Department of Defense's system, EHR Intelligence reports (Heath, EHR Intelligence, 11/19).

Background

In February 2013, VA and DOD abandoned plans to create a joint, integrated EHR. Instead, DOD plans to purchase commercial a EHR system through Cerner, Leidos and Accenture Federal, while VA plans to improve its existing EHR. VA and DOD each will work towards interoperability with the other.

A GAO report released in August found several instances in which the departments missed key deadlines to make their systems more interoperable.

Meanwhile, at a hearing last month, the House Oversight and Veterans' Affairs committees expressed skepticism about the agencies plans to pursue separate EHR systems (iHealthBeat, 10/28).

Bill Details

Among other things, the bill would require VA to:

  • Submit a budget proposal to Congress to secure federal funds for health IT development; and
  • Submit a budget increase request to Congress before expanding or reducing the department's EHR project by more than $1 million.

Under the bill, VA also would be required to submit plans for EHR and health IT implementation, including:

  • Actual costs of EHR implementation;
  • EHR functionality changes;
  • Implementation deadlines and progress on meeting them;
  • Progress on establishing EHR interoperability;
  • Status of EHR implementation; and
  • The tools needed to implement the EHR.

In addition, VA would be required to submit information on EHR interoperability, such as:

  • Baseline measurements associated with interoperability;
  • VA and DOD's definition of interoperable EHR systems;
  • Metrics being used to measure interoperability; and
  • Milestones and timeline for achieving interoperability (EHR Intelligence, 11/19).

The bill has been sent back to the House (Congress.gov, 11/12).

Source: iHealthBeat, Friday, November 20, 2015
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