Defense-VA Electronic Health Record Office and Director Quietly Disappear

The joint iEHR project was called off earlier this year.

After launching with much fanfare in 2009, the interagency program office charged with developing an integrated electronic health record for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments all but sputtered to a halt in September, Nextgov has learned.

The development followed a decision by Defense and VA in February to independently develop their own EHRs, due to the high cost of the joint system, pegged at $28 billion by Frank Kendall, Defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Neither Defense nor VA formally announced the shutdown of the interagency program office.  A hint of its demise can be found in an industry briefing (Slide 5) that said Christopher Miller had assumed the role of acting director of the office, in addition to his role as program executive officer of the new Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization, charged with developing the Defense EHR.

Maureen Schumann, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed on Monday to Nextgov that Barclay Butler, appointed director of the interagency program office in February 2012, left his job on Sept. 23. Defense and VA are in the early stages of development of a revised charter and organizational chart of the office, Schumann added, and once completed, “the staffing for the IPO will be determined and announced.”

While the office has been all but vaporized, both Defense and VA face the rather difficult task of finding a workaround to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 that mandated a joint EHR.

The two departments also need to figure out how to work their way around language in the 2014 VA spending bill that also mandates a single EHR, which could become law if Congress passes a 2014 budget.