GAO: DoD, VA are slow to share patient records

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Sluggish progress by the departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) in setting up a joint interagency program office to facilitate health information exchange may be seriously hampering the military’s ability to meet congressional mandates in this area, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week.

“The departments’ effort to set up the program office is still in its early stages,” the report stated. “Leadership positions in the office are not yet permanently filled, staffing is not complete and facilities to house the office have not been designated.”

Congress directed the departments to have the office fully operational by Sept. 30, 2009, according to Government HealthIT.

“Without a fully established program office and a finalized implementation plan with set milestones, the departments may be challenged in meeting the required date for achieving interoperable EHRs and capabilities,” the report concluded.

Government HealthIT reported that the GAO also found that DoD and VA have agreed on some data standards and are sharing some e-health information at varying levels of interoperability. Pharmacy and drug allergy data are exchanged in computable form, “the highest level of interoperability,” the GAO found.

In some cases, records are “read-only,” while in others e-health information cannot be shared. “Information is still captured on paper at many DoD medical facilities,” the report noted. The exchange of paper-based information is an issue the departments still need to address, the report concluded.

A DoD/VA Information Interoperability Plan, targeted for approval in August will address the issues and plan for greater data interoperability, the GAO reported.

Government HealthIT said that the GAO recommended that the departments give priority to fully establishing the program office and finalizing the implementation plan. The DoD and VA concurred with GAO’s recommendations.