Military Health Needs to KISS

When it comes to military health systems, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs need to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid), so says, in so many words, the final report released by the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors.

Defense and the VA should simplify the way they share health care and veterans’ benefits information, according to the commission, which was headed by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Department Secretary Donna Shalala.

The current information technology systems in the two departments are so complex that users of the systems “often do not know what data are readily available to them,” the report concluded.

The report added the IT systems in the two departments are “fragmented and compartmentalized,” with information collected and stored in isolated, yet overlapping, data systems that are rarely integrated. “Some parts of the system collect more information than needed; others duplicate information available in other parts of the system, increasing opportunities for errors and inconsistencies,” and while the two Departments are working to exchange medical and disability information, “they do not fully integrate health care data with benefit information,” according to the report.

The commission said “simplifying processes” for exchange of information should be a priority and wants to see an inter-departmental system built within 12 months that provides clinicians, health professionals and administrators with access to health and benefits data.

Defense and VA also should develop a Web-based portal for service members, veterans and families within a year, the commission advised. While that may seem a daunting task, loosely organized volunteer groups developed a Web-based electronic health record system for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in just over a month.