Hagel on iEHR: 'I didn't think we knew what the hell we were doing'

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Secretary for the U.S. Department of Defense Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that lack of understanding regarding the creation of a joint electronic health record system with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs led him to block DoD from issuing a request for proposals last month, Federal News Radio reports.

Hagel, speaking at a House Appropriations Committee hearing, said that while not all of the money that has been poured into the project has been wasted, the DoD must do better. He said that he has ordered a restructuring of the process that will include "direct management oversight" by his office, according to the article.

"[Some capabilities] have come out of our investment," Hagel (right) said. "But I acknowledge we're way behind."

To that end, though, Hagel said that no more money would be spent until he can get a firm grasp on the situation.

"I didn't think we knew what the hell we were doing," Hagel said. "We've got teams over at VA and we're doing a lot of good things, but we haven't completed an integrated health record system, which is what we committed to."

A petition was created late last month calling for DoD to adopt the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), the electronic health record used by the VA. DoD, according to the article, wants to discontinue use of its current health record system, the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA).

That came roughly one month after House Veterans' Affairs Committee members blasted the VA and DoD for altering their approach to forming an integrated EHR. The two agencies, which initially had planned to create a joint records system from the ground up, cited budgetary and time constraints when they announced that they instead would focus on using "existing solutions" to combine their current and disparate systems.

"What the president said he wanted when he came into office, and what the Congress funded, was a seamless, interoperable system," Hagel said. "You can use the word integrated, you can use any word you want. I want it to work."

To learn more:
- read the Federal News Radio article

Related Articles:
Is the Defense Department ready to embrace VistA?
Petition calls for DoD to adopt VistA
iEHR mess highlights the importance of communication in health IT
House blasts 'U-turn' on iEHR project
VA, DoD nix plan for joint EHR

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