VA kills health IT projects, puts more back on track

By Peter Buxbaum
02:25 PM

Editor's note: This story was edited on March 1 to correct the statement that the VA's National Teleradiology Program was suspended following an accountability review. NTP was not suspended, said Roger Baker, VA's assistant secretary for information and technology. Instead only "one aspect of new development" related to the program was sidelined, he said. NTP itself carries on.

Several health IT projects at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been canned following evaluations performed under a stringent project management program while still others have earned a new lease on life as a result of the same program.

On a conference call today, Roger Baker, the VA's assistant secretary for information and technology, said that evaluations under the Program Management Accountability System (PMAS), which was inaugurated last summer, led to the termination of 12 projects and to the restarting of 32 of them. One project is still awaiting a final determination.

VA stopped production on 45 of its most troubled IT projects last summer following a highly critical inspector general report which cited poor IT project management.

PMAS is designed to eliminate unfruitful projects early on through the strict application of milestone deadlines.

Projects now back on track include: Health Data Repository (HDR) II; Document & Ancillary Imaging; Clinical Data Service; Home Telehealth Development; Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Outcomes v3.0; Lab Data Sharing & Interoperability - Anatomic Pathology/Microbiology; Pharmacy Re-Engineering; and Radiology Voice Recognition Interface.

Projects no longer being pursued include Scheduling Replacement; Clinical Data Repository/Health Data Repository (CHDR) -Chemistry & Hematology: ADC Automation; and a software development project associated with the National Teleradiology Program.

Baker pointed out while the programs were sidelined, many of the requirements they targeted may continue to exist and that similar projects could therefore be re-developed.

The VA-Department of Defense virtual lifetime record project (VLER) which is seeking to develop a joint medical and administrative electronic record is being managed under PMAS, Baker said. An ongoing VLER pilot in San Diego in which VA and the private Kaiser Permanente health network are exchanging medical data is also being managed under PMAS.

"The pilot met all its dates," said Baker.

The VA-DoD North Chicago project, in which the two departments are jointly running a hospital, including its information systems, was placed under PMAS as of February 15, 2010.

"We will be looking at the next milestone closely," said Baker of the project, which has experienced delays.

PMAS saved the VA $54 million in its fiscal year 2010 budget, according to Baker. All departmental IT projects will now be put through PMAS.

"We will use the $54 million to fund other higher priority projects that will create benefits for veterans," he said.

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