By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2013 - The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments should be able to create a seamless health records system by the end of the year, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall told reporters today.
The undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics led a review of the health care records system.
The idea is to create a system in which health care records can move from DOD to VA or other health care providers. The two departments are building on President Barack Obama's national standards for health care records. "This will enable records to move more easily between DOD and the VA," Kendall said during a Pentagon news conference.
DOD has been sending electronic medical records to VA for years, the undersecretary noted. Those "read only" records are used by VA to determine eligibility for benefits and disability. But records are also necessary for medical care, he said.
"It's there that we're really trying to improve -- the records used by doctors and clinicians," he added. "The first step in that is to get in compliance with the standard data format so it can move in a seamless way. We expect to have integrated, seamless records with the VA by the end of this year."
A separate effort is to modernize the systems used within the Defense Department and VA to provide health care.
"There's no requirement that we use the same software to do that," Kendall said. VA officials elected to modernize using the department's existing Vista system.
"It was a reasonable decision for VA," Kendall said. "They had a solid base in Vista, had a lot of people trained in it, had the programming in-house, and their physicians were familiar with it."
Veterans Affairs will continue to build for the future on the Vista system, and DOD may use Vista or it may use another software altogether, Kendall said.
"The question is how to provide the best value for our people and the best possible health care for our people," he said. "The conclusion after the review is the best possible approach taps into the commercial market and brings commercial systems in as candidates, along with Vista-based systems as well."
DOD reached out to industry and received 20 proposals, including three based on Vista. "We think we have a rich field to pick from, and we can make a best value determination for DOD," the undersecretary said.
Kendall said the next task moving forward is going to be understanding of what's affordable, given the budget stream.
"Modernization is probably going to take place ... in an incremental fashion," he said.
The bottom line for service members is that they will have a single integrated record, Kendall said.
"The record is the data," he said, "and once we have that data in the standardized form and we have converted the data we have now into that architecture, then we're positioned to whatever lies ahead -- whatever software we buy, wherever we move it to."
Department of Veterans Affairs
DOD News Release