The Institute of Medicine has added one more voice to what has been a chorus of critics, advisers and federal officials calling for improved interoperability between the record-keeping systems of the medical services of the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
In its recommendations, the IOM adroitly sidestepped a fundamental and hugely expensive decision that has roiled the two departments for more than a decade: how to best achieve that interoperability, either by interfacing their disparate electronic health-record systems, or forcing the two departments to settle on one common EHR.
For fiscal 2008, Congress, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, required the secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to contract with the National Academies, which delegated the task to the IOM, to study “the physical-health, mental-health, and other readjustment needs of members and former members of the armed forces” deployed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The final report of that 29-member study group, the 794-page “Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families,” was released this week.
More than 2.2 million military personnel have been deployed in the two wars since U.S. troops first invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as “Operation Enduring Freedom” and then Iraq in 2003 as “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” which was renamed in 2010 “Operation New Dawn.”
According to the IOM, there have been 2,222 U.S. fatalities and more than 16,000 wounded in Afghanistan, with that occupation still ongoing, and 4,422 killed and more than 32,000 wounded in the Iraq war between its commencement March 20, 2003, and Sept. 1, 2010, when the name change occurred and the IOM study period ended.