Data sharing snafus mar VA-DoD hospital's success

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Lack of electronic health record interoperability at a new hospital jointly run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense is adversely affecting clinical care and costing the government millions of dollars, according to a new report published this week by the Institute of Medicine.  

The state-of-the-art facility--the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago--merged two separate hospitals, and was intended to deliver integrated and cost-efficient healthcare. However, neither VA or DoD wanted to change their EHR systems, resulting in an inability to share patient data between the two systems, according to the report. VA and DoD were going to rely on the development of software interfaces that would permit the systems to work together, but that endeavor has proved too challenging to implement.

As a result, the two EHRs have to be maintained separately, which requires time consuming workarounds at an added cost of $1 million a year.

"The committee recommends that no new federal healthcare centers be implemented until an interoperable or joint EHR system is available," the report said. The IOM also recommended that the two entities standardize their overall policies and procedures and build a framework to evaluate the success of the merger.

The VA and DoD previously expressed concern that they would not be able to use a single interface to fully integrate their EHR systems. The joint VA/DoD EHR, known as iEHR is in development. A preliminary roll out of the integrated system is expected in 2014, and a fully integrated system is due in 2017.

To learn more:
- here's the IOM report
- read this Nextgov article
- learn about the iEHR

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