A fully connected electronic health record that can follow servicemen and servicewomen from active duty and beyond is still a long ways away despite nearly a decade's worth of work to develop one, government investigators told Congress yesterday.
The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments have been working on ways to share health information and create comprehensive EHRs, but have been hindered by project management and planning challenges that have led to "repeated changes in the focus of their initiatives and target completion dates," according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
While the report did not raise eyebrows on Capitol Hill, it did raise the ire of many lawmakers on the House VA Oversight and Investigations Subcommitteemany of whom have grown frustrated over years of slow progress and scuttled plans.
"This has been an ongoing issue almost to the point where it has been deja vu all over again," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), the ranking member of the subcommittee.
Valerie Melvin, director of human capital and management information systems issues at the GAO, told federal lawmakers that there have been some short-term successes, but overall neither department has been able to "articulate a strategy to get to the final mission."
Still, the short-term work and health IT systems in play in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown promise, said Brig. Gen. Douglas Robb, formerly the Command Surgeon for the U.S. Central Command. During testimony, Robb helped relay the story of a wounded soldier in Afghanistan who benefited from an interconnected EHR as he moved from the battlefield through various levels of careand often in various locations.
"What was also lifesaving was the ability of the surgeons at Landstuhl Hospital, Germany, who would receive (Spc. Channing Moss) less than 24 hours after his initial injury, and the surgeons at Walter Reed to be able to view his operative notes and X-rays before the patient arrived at their hospitals," Robb said. The records moved through the Defense Department's Joint Patient Tracking Application, he said.