The U.S. military's giant electronic health-record contract announced last week with a consortium including EHR vendor Cerner Corp. likely will have a major impact on advancing interoperability in health information technology across the entire U.S. healthcare system, experts say.
The military's goal is to use its new system to achieve health IT interoperability with thousands of civilian healthcare partners. That's because 60% to 70% of the care provided to the 9.6 million Military Health System beneficiaries—active duty military personnel, retirees and their families—is delivered by providers in the private sector, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said at a July 29 briefing.
Communication between military and civilian systems needs to be a two-way channel. “Part of our requirement is to position ourselves to be interoperable with the private sector,” Woodson said. “But the fact of the matter is, the private sector has to make itself interoperable as well. What we're doing today will help advance that public preparedness.”
Another goal will be to enhance the Military Health System's interoperability with the Veterans Health Administration's VistA EHR, military leaders said. The decades-long inability of the two systems to communicate has been the focus of multiple Government Accountability Office reports and congressional hearings.