After the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense announced plans to scale back costs by scrapping plans to create an entirely new EHR system shared between the two organizations, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed disappointment and frustration. A statement released by the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committee blasted the new policy, faulting the departments for already spending $1 billion of the estimated $4 billion cost of the new system without producing any results.
Senate Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), stated that he was “deeply disappointed by the decision to back away from a commitment to develop and implement a truly integrated, single EHR. An integrated record would allow for a streamlined and timely claims process, faster decisions on benefits, less duplication in medical testing and more efficient, cost-effective treatment for both physical and mental health needs.”
Florida Republican Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House’s committee, also condemned the unexpected approach. “The decision by DoD and VA to turn their backs on a truly integrated electronic health record system is deeply troubling,” he said. “Until yesterday, both agencies have given us nothing but assurances they were working toward that goal. Previous attempts by DoD and VA to use disparate computer systems to produce universal electronic health records have failed, and unfortunately it appears they are repeating past mistakes. When DoD and VA take shortcuts, the veterans and service members under their care will be shortchanged.”
The announcement that the departments were pulling back on their ambitious plans took many industry experts by surprise. As late as December, DoD Secretary Leon Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki were enthusiastic about their intentions to proceed with shutting down their independent EHRs, the VA’s VistA and DoD’s AHLTA systems, even announcing that they were accelerating the timeline to complete th project more quickly. And in a press call on January 30, VA CIO Roger Baker gave no indication that anything was wrong.
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) added: “This is a huge setback and completely unacceptable. For years we have been told by both agencies that progress was made and that things were on track. I’m disappointed that our nation’s two largest government agencies – one of which is the world’s foremost developer of high-tech machines and cyber-systems – could not come together on something that would have been so beneficial to those that served. We have just witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain.”