Lawmakers Set to Grill Defense, VA on Health Records U-Turn

House Veterans’ Affairs panel schedules a hearing on decision to abandon integrated system.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee plans to hold a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 27, on the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments’ Feb. 6 decision to drop plans to develop a $4 billion integrated electronic health record and instead pursue less expensive technologies to make their respective systems more interoperable.

The hearing -- “Electronic Health Record U-Turn: Are VA and DoD Headed in the Wrong Direction?” -- probably will not be warm and fuzzy based on comments about the decision to abandon the joint health record posted on the committee website from key congressmen and senators.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said, “The decision by DoD and VA to turn their backs on a truly integrated electronic health record system is deeply troubling…. Previous attempts by DoD and VA to use disparate computer systems to produce universal electronic health records have failed, and unfortunately it appears they are repeating past mistakes.”

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said, “I am deeply disappointed by the VA and Defense Department decision to back away from a commitment to develop and implement a truly integrated, single, electronic health record.”

And Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. said, “The fact that VA and DoD would reverse course on a plan they have been working towards for years that would create a coordinated electronic health record system between the two agencies is concerning and disappointing.”

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, ranking member of the House committee, had this to offer: “This is a huge setback and completely unacceptable. For years we have been told by both agencies that progress was made and that things were on track. I’m disappointed that our nation’s two largest government agencies -- one of which is the world’s foremost developer of high-tech machines and cyber-systems -- could not come together on something that would have been so beneficial to those that served. We have just witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain.”

No witness list yet -- but I have a hunch the top leaders of both departments will be summoned for a grilling.