Last month, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs scrapped a much touted project to build a shared electronic health record system. The initiative, which was announced in May, was supposed to create a single virtual lifetime electronic record, or VLER, that could be accessed for DOD service members and veterans at any VA facility.
On February 5th, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and (then) Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that they were discontinuing the program. Instead of creating a single new system for military EHRs, the agency heads decided that it would be faster and cheaper to integrate existing systems. According to representatives of the agencies, doing this would allow “quick wins” to improve healthcare.
According to the Washington Post, representatives from the agencies testified at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing late last month, telling the committee that the single system plan was not feasible. Even though the first milestone was not set to come until 2014, the Director of Information Management and Technology Resources for the Government Accountability Office (GOA) told the Committee that “longstanding institutional differences” between the agencies could stand in the way of creating the system.
Members of both political parties joined veterans groups in expressing their dismay over the discontinuation of the program. According to the American Legion, over the past four years about a billion dollars has been spent working on the new system. The Defense Department continues to insist that they are still focused on achieving an integrated EHR for veterans.