Senator Slams Pentagon for Its Electronic Health Record Strategy

 Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Ted S. Warren/AP

Patty Murray says the ‘best option’ would be an open source system with VA.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., opened today’s Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Defense Department’s 2014 spending plan with sharp criticism over the Pentagon’s decision not to develop an integrated electronic health record with the Veterans Affairs Department.

The Pentagon pursued the iEHR for four years, but on May 16, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opted out of that strategy and said Defense plans to acquire its own commercial health record software.

In her opening statement, Murray told Hagel she did not back that decision.

“Clearly the best option would have been a single joint electronic health record system that is open-source. This would have been the most effective solution and would have revolutionized the market, but the Department has backed away from that goal,” Murray said.

She also slammed Defense for wasting money and resources on the iEHR before deciding to acquire commercial software. “I think everyone in this room is concerned you spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars -- and thousands of staff hours over the last few years -- trying to create an integrated IT platform with the VA only to announce you were unable to come to a solution.”

Murray told Hagel, “I know there are significant questions about how to move forward, but I expect that you and [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki will clearly define a plan and ensure leadership remains behind this important project.”

“The lack of seamless integration between our two largest departments is one of the most critical areas to address in order to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and ensure our service members and their families get the care they need and deserve,” she said.

This is the latest Congressional blow to Hagel’s commercial health record software plan. On May 14, the House Appropriations Committee provided $344 million in development funds for the iEHR in the VA’s 2014 budget on the condition that no funds be expended on any electronic health record project unless it  has an open architecture that serves both Defense and VA.