VA, DoD plan to accelerate iEHR timeline


The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments will have a plan by early January 2013 to "meet or beat" the previously-established schedule for standing up an Integrated Electronic Health Record.

"We've got to do everything we can to move this on a more expeditious path," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a Dec. 6 joint press briefing.

Panetta told reporters in May the iEHR will be ready in 2017 and the Veterans Affairs Department has held that early versions of the iEHR would be ready in a limited rollout in 2014. The secretaries stopped short of going on the record with a new implementation deadline during the briefing. However, Panetta said the departments agreed to "accelerating this program."

Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki are also working closely to lessen a benefits claim backlog that has plagued the VA. The Veterans Benefit Management System will help significantly, by automating what to this point has been a paper-bound process, said Shinseki.

"We've been developing this tool for the last two years. It's in the process of being fielded now," said Shinseki.

The VA secretary said VBMS will be implemented at 18 regional offices before the end of December and fully fielded in 2013.

"That puts us on track to eliminate the backlog as we have indicated we would in 2015," said Shinseki.

The integration provided by the forthcoming health record system will also improve processing of new claims, by linking personnel and medical databases between VA and DoD, said Shinseki.

He said VBMS will be an immediate and long-term solution for claims processing. The department is reviewing claims at a rate of approximately 1 million per year.

"The challenge for us we've got a million-plus in return coming in the door," said Shinseki. "We'll continue to push a million claims out the door, and hopefully with VBMS, we'll increase that production, and so we get control of the numbers."

For more:
- read a transcript from the event
- read VA's Storified recap of the event

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