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: 3 of 15
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for inviting us to testify on actions of the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to achieve
the ability to exchange patient health care data and create an electronic
record for veterans and active duty personnel. VA and DOD, collectively,
provided health care services to approximately 13 million veterans,
military personnel, and dependents at a cost of about $47 billion in fiscal
year 2002. While in military status and later as veterans, many patients
tend to be highly mobile and, consequently, their health records may be at
multiple federal and nonfederal medical facilities, both in and outside of
the United States. Thus, having readily accessible data on active duty
personnel and veterans is important to facilitate providing quality health
care to them.
VA and DOD have been pursuing ways to share data in their health
information systems and create electronic records since 1998, their actions
following the President's call for the development of an interface to allow
the two departments to share patient health information.' Since
undertaking this mission, however, the departments have faced
considerable challenges, leading to repeated changes in the focus of their
initiative and the target dates for its accomplishment. Our prior reports
supporting the initiative2 noted disappointing progress, exacerbated in
large part by inadequate accountability and poor planning and oversight,
which raised doubts about the departments' ability to achieve an
electronic interface among their health information systems. When we last
reported on the initiative in September 2002,3 VA and DOD had taken some
actions aimed at strengthening their joint efforts. For example, they had
'In 1996, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses reported on
many deficiencies in VA's and DOD's data capabilities for handling service members' health
information. In November 1997, the President called for the two agencies to start
developing a "comprehensive, life-long medical record for each service member," and in
1998 issued a directive requiring VA and DOD to develop a "computer-based patient record
system that will accurately and efficiently exchange information."
2U.S. General Accounting Office, Computer-Based Patient Records: Better Planning and
Oversight by VA, DOD, and IHS [Indian Health Service] Would Enhance Health Data
Sharing, GAO-01-459 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 30, 2001); VA Information Technology:
Progress Made, but Continued Management Attention Is Key to Achieving Results,
GAO-02-369T (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 13, 2002); and VA Information Technology:
Management Making Important Progress in Addressing Key Challenges GAO-02-1054T
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 26, 2002).
GAO-04-271T VA/DOD Health Data Exchange
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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.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295289/m1/3/: accessed December 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.