Electronic Health Records

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VA Achieves Interoperability through Joint Legacy Viewer

VA CIO LaVerne Council says the department has met its interoperability requirements set in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

By Sara Heath

- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has officially reached its interoperability requirements through implementation of its Joint Legacy Viewer (JLV) EHR.

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In an article published on FedTech Magazine’s website, VA’s chief information officer LaVerne Council, celebrated that accomplishment, explaining that she officially signed off on VA’s interoperability requirements on April 8 through a letter to Congress.

JLV has been implemented in 1,700 of VA’s healthcare facilities nationwide, and is being used by nearly 100,000 individuals, helping to connect patient information between multiple VA providers and civilian providers where applicable.

According to Council, use of the EHR is growing steadily, outpacing the department’s initial growth estimates.

In all, JLV has the interoperable functions of an EHR, helping providers see an entire patient’s medical history, thus enabling better informed care decisions.

“Now, when a veteran goes to see her VA clinician about a nagging health issue, that clinician can use the JLV to digitally examine her entire medical history,” Council wrote. “The clinician can review test results, treatment history, and any potential red flags from throughout her years of military service.”

However, according to Council, VA’s work in the technology realm is not done. Going forward, the department plans to build upon this platform of interoperable health IT.

“IT plays a critical role in enabling care for our nation’s veterans. At VA’s Office of Information and Technology, that means we will continue working to enhance interoperability, modernize VA’s electronic health record, and deliver tools for clinicians to provide more comprehensive, patient-centered care,” Council said, detailing the benefits of growing a more robust interoperability infrastructure.

“And JLV is just the beginning. Meeting this mandate does not mean we are taking a break; we are more committed than ever to pushing forward and pioneering new capabilities.”

The VA plans to move forward with its enterprise Health Management Platform (eHMP), which will build upon the JLV and enhance the technology’s interface. The eHMP will ideally make the data more pliable, allowing providers to compute it, write notes within the data, and order tests and lab results.

Council said this is all a part of VA’s larger goal of moving forward with technology and keeping pace with innovations. Just because VA has successfully implemented JLV, she said, the department will not assume a stand-still in regards to their technology. They will reportedly continue to innovate.

“There are no ‘one-and-done’ solutions in the world of technology, and there are certainly no shortcuts to be taken when the mission is to provide a truly veteran-centric healthcare experience,” the CIO noted. “As technology evolves, we will continuously modernize our platform with enhanced, flexible components.”

VA has had a difficult run with supporting health IT interoperability. Over the course of the past several years, VA, alongside the Department of Defense, have been meeting pressure from Congress urging them to implement interoperable EHRs.

Both agencies have struggled to do so, facing a litany of investigations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as hearings with Congress.

Just last October, members of Congress attending a hearing with VA and DOD leaders expressed extreme frustrations that neither department had yet successfully adopted interoperable technology.

Specifically, Congressional leaders spoke to a lack of leadership within VA and DOD.

“I don’t mean to understate the enormity of the challenge of integrating the two largest federal bureaucracies,” said Congressman Will Hurd, “but it’s clear to me that our inability to integrate these two systems is a failure of leadership rather than technical feasibility.  This is not an issue of data standardization.  This is management 101.”

Despite those frustrations, Congress still funded continued VA efforts through a bill signed at the start of 2016.

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