Bush Touts IT for Vets, Soldiers

President Bush today plugged the use of information technology in the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to better manage the health of wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There's a lot of amazing things taking place here in this facility," Bush said at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "For example, we saw information technology, health care records that are being passed seamlessly from the Department of Defense to the VA, to make sure that the care providers here have got up-to-date access for each patient."

Bush was accompanied by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Donna Shalala, former secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services under the Clinton Administration. Dole and Shalala co-chaired the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, which was put together after news broke about the poor treatment of wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of the mismanagement could be traced back to lost health records and desperate, poorly performing health IT systems at both Defense and VA. The commission recommended improving the IT systems managing soldiers' and veterans' electronic health records.

More money for a better system seems like a lock. Bush urged Congress, which returns from recess next month, to send him a bill that would implement the commission's recommendations. Bush said:

Any time there is any doubt in anybody's mind that our veterans are not getting excellent care, then we in government have a duty to deal with those doubts. I have asked [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates and Secretary [James] Nicholson to review their respective departments and the interface of their departments -- the Defense Department and the Veterans Department -- to make sure that any doubt as to whether or not a veteran, or one on active duty, gets the best care, does so.

... When [members of Congress] come back in September, we want to work with Congress to pass that which is necessary to make sure that the Dole-Shalala commission recommendations are fully implemented.

Just a few months ago, there was plenty of doubt about the quality of care at Defense and VA, especially coming from soldiers, their families and those inside the departments.

Look for Defense and VA to quickly hire a contractor to build a Web health portal for the two departments, much like what already exists in the private sector.