Pentagon, VA Leaders Commit to Boosting Accountability in Health Record Overhaul

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Both secretaries pledged to re-examine the multibillion-dollar program’s organization structure and timelines.

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are working together on a plan to increase accountability in their multibillion-dollar attempt to get on the same electronic health record platform.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed a joint statement on Sept. 26 pledging to align their agencies’ strategies for building an interoperable EHR system. The statement was released to the public on Wednesday.

In addition to coordinating tech investments and data flows, the departments will re-examine the program’s organizational structure and create “an accountability mechanism that facilitates coordinated decision making and oversight.”

Lawmakers and watchdog groups warn the departments’ current lack of accountability could derail the massive IT overhaul, as it’s done in years past.

The Pentagon and VA also plan to release a detailed timeline for rolling out the new platform, according to the statement.

“The [Defense Department] and VA EHR modernization teams continue to work their respective EHR program implementations, while maximizing collaborative strategies, opportunities, and projects whenever possible,” Mattis and Wilkie wrote in the statement. “It is imperative that the [Defense Department] and VA work together to promote the best use of resources in pursuit of our common EHR modernization goals and objectives.”

In May, VA inked a 10-year, $10 billion deal with Cerner Corp. to build a platform that could seamlessly share medical records between the agency and the Defense Department.

More than three years into its own multibillion-dollar deal with Cerner, the Pentagon has encountered substantial setbacks with the platform. Officials have since raised the contract ceiling by $1.1 billion.

By more closely collaborating with Defense officials, VA could avoid similar hiccups and deploy the platform faster, the agency said in a statement.