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VA and DoD have a plan to minimize iEHR risk, says Baker

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The secretaries of the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments will meet Feb. 5 to likely approve a software development approach permitting the accelerated rollout of a joint electronic health record, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker told reporters Wednesday.

The two secretaries have said that a joint, integrated EHR – known as the iEHR – a would be ready in 2017, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in December said the departments agreed to shorten the deployment deadline. The Government Accountability Office, however, cast doubt on the department's ability to meet even the 2017 deadline, calling it in a September report "both optimistic and uncertain."

"I think there is at this point a good strategy to address the GAO concern and the secretaries' concern that it's taking too long and you're trying to do too much," Baker said, declining to go into specifics ahead of the Feb. 5 meeting.

The acceleration plan depends on a set of changed assumptions, he said. "If x is causing us great risk, how do we change x, what concrete actions could we take that would make x something that not causes us great risk?" he added.

In the meantime, the VA has begun a multi-year project of standardizing all 153 implementations of its current EHR: the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture. The VA-designated custodian of open-sourced VistA code, the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent, has selected 20 core modules that can be implemented uniformly across medical centers, Baker said. VistA is comprised of about 20,000 modules, Baker said, but added that variability in local implementations of the EHR is "actually less than perceived variability" due in part to previous years of centralized development.

The VA launched in January a contest for a VistA scheduling application compatible with the open source baseline with prizes of up to $3 million to as many as three entrants.

For more:
- listen to Baker's Jan. 30 press call

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