Roger Baker touts VA and DoD health IT commonality at budget hearing

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The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments are weeks away from agreement on a common electronic health record, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker told a congressional panel Feb. 17.

"I believe that will happen, with strong influence from the secretaries, in the next month or two," Baker told the House Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on the department's fiscal 2012 budget request.

Lack of a common system in the two departments has long been a subject of criticism, most recently by the Government Accountability Office in a Feb. 2 report, which quoted a May 2010 analysis that found the two departments share 10 of 13 core health IT requirements.

The VA has already agreed to adopt the Electronic Data Interchange Personal Identifier the DoD assigns to all service members as the identifier of record for veterans, Baker added.  

"All of our databases will contain that identifier. That'll take a long term to convert all of those databases to that, but the effect is that all our applications, when they go to look for information for a veteran can rely on that identifier being there," he added.

The VA also has an effort underway known as Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record which should allow both organizations, plus private sector care givers, to share patient-related information by the end of 2012. The department wants $70 million for VLER in fiscal 2012, which starts Oct. 1. That amount would be less than the $83.5 million the VA estimates it'll spend on VLER this fiscal year, but more than the $25.32 million it spent in fiscal 2010, the effort's first year.

VA budget documents show the department intends to roll out VLER in four stages:

  • An initial set of clinical information;
  • additional information for disability adjudication including personnel and administrative information;
  • all remaining information needed for the delivery of the benefits services, including other compensation, housing, insurance, education, and memorial benefits;
  • online access via a web portal to comprehensive electronic health, benefits, and administrative information, as well as the ability to interact directly with benefits providers in order to apply for, track and receive services.

All four stages should have initial operating capability by fiscal 2012, Baker said during the hearing.

Overall, the VA intends to spend $3.16 billion on IT in fiscal 2012, less than the $3.3 billion it estimates it will spend in the current fiscal year and which it had authority for in fiscal 2010.

Operations and maintenance is the largest category in the IT budget request, consuming as it does 45 percent of the total.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage
- go to the VA fiscal 2012 budget request webpage, or directly download the volume concerning IT (.pdf)

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