Congress pushes DOD, VA to speed up EHR development

Agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are supposed to be working on a single EHR, but things haven't gone as planned.

Private hospitals are not the only organizations that are mandated to adopt an electronic health record (EHR) system as of January 1, 2014. The federal government wants to develop similar systems for its own agencies, particularly those that are responsible for the healthcare of military veterans.

That's why agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are supposed to be working on their own EHRs. However, things haven't been going as planned. According to an article in the Military Times, Congress has grown frustrated with the slow pace of work and is now threatening to withhold millions of dollars in funding from both agencies unless progress resumes.

"If they want their money, they're going to have to earn it," Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said at a recent meeting of the House Appropriations Committee's military construction and veterans affairs panel.

This is not a new issue. Last year, leaders of both departments ruffled feathers on Capitol Hill when they announced the end of plans to build a single EHR system that would have tracked soldiers "from boot camp through their VA care." Lawmakers at the time noted that efforts to create this system had already cost the government $1 billion, with little to show for it. 

The agencies claimed that their separate systems won't prevent them from sharing records. But there are benefits to having one overarching system that cannot be matched by existing setup.

This is a lesson that many private hospitals have learned during their time working with healthcare consulting firms. When dealing with a large number of patients, it pays to remove uncertainty wherever possible.

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