Computer-Based Patient Records: Short-Term Progress Made, but Much Work Remains to Achieve a Two-Way Data Exchange Between VA and DOD Health Systems Page: 2 of 15

SAccountability- Integrity* Reliability
Highlights of GAO-04-271T, a report to the
Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, House Committee on
Veterans' Affairs
Why GAO Did This Study
For the past 5 years, the
Departments of Veterans Affairs
and Defense have been working to
exchange health care data and
create electronic records for
veterans and active duty personnel.
Such exchange is seen as a means
of reducing the billions of dollars
that the departments spend
annually on health care services
and making such data more readily
accessible to those treating our
country's approximately 13 million
veterans, military personnel, and
dependents. This is especially
critical when military personnel are
engaged in conflicts all over the
world, and their health records can
reside at multiple locations.
GAO has reported on these efforts
several times, most recently in
September 2002. At the request of
the Subcommittee, GAO is
updating its observations on the
departments' efforts, focusing on
(1) the reported status of the
ongoing, one-way exchange of data,
the Federal Health Information
Exchange, and (2) progress toward
achieving the longer term two-way
exchange under the HealthePeople
(Federal) initiative.

Short-Term Progress Made, But Much
Work Remains to Achieve A Two-Way
Data Exchange Between VA and DOD
Health Systems
What GAO Found
Access to medical data that includes information on the entire lives of
veterans and active duty military personnel represents an enormous step
toward enhanced and more effective medical care. VA and DOD are pursuing
this goal in two stages.
* Federal Health Information Exchange. This current, one-way
transfer of health care data from DOD to VA is already allowing
clinicians in VA medical centers to make faster, more informed decisions
through ready access to information on almost 2 million patients,
thereby improving their level of health care delivery. The program's
fiscal year 2003 cost was just over $11 million.
* HealthePeople (Federal). The realization of this longer term strategy
to enable electronic, two-way information sharing is farther out on the
horizon. The departments are proceeding with projects that are expected
to result in a limited two-way exchange of health data by the end of 2005.
However, VA and DOD face significant challenges in implementing a full
data exchange capability. Although a high-level strategy exists, the
departments have not yet clearly articulated a common health
information infrastructure and architecture to show how they intend to
achieve the data exchange capability or what they will be able to
exchange by the end of 2005. In addition, critical to achieving the two-
way exchange will be completing the standardization of the clinical data
that these departments plan to share. Without standardization, the task
of sharing meaningful data could be more complex and may not prove
VA, DOD Systems to Support Two-Way Data Exchange Strategy
VA Projected DOD
Initiatives Completion Initiatives
Graphical User Interface,
2005 General Dentistry
Health Data Repository, Pharmacy, Laboratory,
Billing Replacement 2006 Radiology, Immunizations
Laboratory 2007 Inpatient and Scheduling
Pharmacy 2008 Additional Capabilities as Defined
Imaging 2011
Appointment Scheduling
Replacement 2012
Source: VA and DOD. T.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Linda D.
Koontz at (202) 512-6240 or
koontzl @

United States General Accounting Office

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United States. General Accounting Office. Computer-Based Patient Records: Short-Term Progress Made, but Much Work Remains to Achieve a Two-Way Data Exchange Between VA and DOD Health Systems, text, November 19, 2003; Washington D.C.. ( accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library,; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.

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