VA, DoD accelerate iEHR timeline

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The program plan for the integrated electronic health records system underwent "a bit of a re-do" in order to prioritize portions of the iEHR implementation, said Veterans Affairs Department Chief Information Officer Roger Baker.

Rather than aiming for a "pretty full system" to take shape in about 4 years, the iEHR must function at a baseline level in 2 years, Baker said during an April 25 press call. The secretaries of VA and the Defense Department set a new goal of baseline iEHR capabilities at two joint facilities by 2014.

Full implementation of iEHR still isn't expected for 4 to 6 years, said VA spokeswoman Josephine Schuda. But under the original plan, Baker said many pieces of iEHR weren't planned for delivery until around the 4-year mark.

"That meant moving some things up, like making certain that we get our pharmacy package out in acquisition and get that awarded, doing things with laboratory, moving things forward on implementation of the Enterprise Services Bus," said Baker.

Another multi-year project now underway at VA will bring WiFi to all VA facilities, enabling the use of mobile medical devices, mobile IT devices such as iPads and real-time location systems for tracking equipment, said Baker. One-third of VA's large facilities currently have WiFi providing connectivity to 99 percent of the entire campus. VA plans to have enterprise-grade WiFi at the remaining two-thirds of VA facilities in 2 to 3 years, he said.

"That will be the backbone for our real time location system," said Baker. But standard WiFi moves freely through walls without detecting if a device is in one room or another. So, WiFi will be augmented somewhat on the medical side, he said.

Efforts to digitize the veterans claims process through the Veterans Benefits Management System are still underway, said Baker. The National Archives and Records Administration is providing VA with "smart scanning" services in the VBMS pilot and the initial production. NARA is now handling all VBMS scanning at four VA medical facilities across the country.

"We are looking at very high volumes of scanning coming up and I think you can expect to see us look at broader industry approaches to this, but NARA's been a tremendous partner," said Baker.

"We certainly see VBMS and iEHR exchanging a lot of information in the future," he added.

For more:
- listen to the press call in its entirety

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