Military joint EHR office rapped for bad planning

The Government Accountability Office criticized the group directing the project to tie together the electronic health record systems operated by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments in a recent report.

GAO said the VA-DOD Interagency Program Office (IPO) needed to improve its planning and scheduling – and specifically its ability to create a master plan for the project –  if the project is to succeed.

GAO also pointed out several project management basics that the program office needed to work on, including creating an integrated schedule of projects and conducting performance assessments to measure progress of those projects.

VA and DOD plan to develop a virtual lifetime electronic record, which will give military service members access to all their electronic records as they transition form active duty to veteran status and throughout their lives.

President Obama last year called the project one of the administration's priorities.

“The (IPO’s) efforts to develop its capabilities in these areas are incomplete,” the GAO report said, adding that “the interagency program office is not yet positioned to function as a single point of accountability.”

Following GAO’s recommendation, the IPO has developed a project plan for the VA-DOD electronic health record project, the GAO report noted. The departments are reviewing the plan, which should be approved this month, the GAO said.

The VA and DOD face a congressionally mandated Sept. 30 deadline to establish interoperable electronic health records systems.

Looking toward that deadline, the DOD and VA have begun sharing patient social history data, such as tobacco use; data from physical exams required for separating from active military duty; and periodic health assessment data.

The DOD also expanded its inpatient medical records system to three more military medical sites and demonstrated scanning and sharing service members’ medical documents, GAO said.

The DOD and VA tested the operation of a secure network gateway to support health information exchange, said GAO.