VA health IT receives budget boost

By Peter Buxbaum
11:40 AM

With budget cutting the buzzword of the day, Department of Veterans Affairs information technology projects nonetheless received healthy increases in funding in the proposed fiscal year 2012 federal government budget released Feb. 14.

A new program called Health Informatics, unfunded in previous budgets, received an $8 million allocation in the White House budget, while the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER), a joint Department of Defense/VA program, received nearly triple the funding, at $70 million, than in the 2010 budget.

The budget for fiscal year 2011, which began on October 1, 2010, has yet to be passed by Congress.

The Health Informatics initiative is designed to "improve information sharing and population health outcomes," according to a VA budget document. "The delivery of health care will be more specific to the individual veteran, yet utilize treatment regimens validated through population studies," it said.

A software development kit for AViVA (A Virtual Implementation of VistA) is to be made available next year. AViVA creates a universal user interface for VistA, the VA's electronic health record, allowing secure links to patient data from any source. The software development kit will enable web development teams to make contributions to the system.

The VLER was initiated by President Obama in April 2009 and calls for the development of a system that will include comprehensive information on members of the armed services during the course of their military careers and after they leave the military.

VLER is being delivered in four phases. The first three concentrate on DoD/VA information exchanges, while the fourth provides for online access to benefits information through a single portal.

The Information Sharing Initiative, which will facilitate the exchange of data among VA, DoD and the Social Security Administration, is expected to be implemented this year. Increasing the number of shared patient records is a goal for this year and next.

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