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Are the feds leading the way?

Friday, February 8, 2013 14:50
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Given the myriad rules and multiple dollars flowing out of the HITECH Act, it’s standard practice to consider the federal government a key player—a leader, even – in the health IT transition.

But a recent announcement by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments suggests leadership of another, somewhat more inadvertent, kind.

The issue is the long awaited joint EHR for which the two agencies have been aiming.  The announcement is that it’s not going to happen. 

As this article reports, on Tuesday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Eric Shinseki, his counterpart at the VA, announced the two departments “would forgo (sic) plans to build a new health records system to be used jointly by the departments and instead pursue less expensive technologies to make their respective systems more interoperable.”

The two officials said “the new approach will significantly cut costs and ultimately deliver better service to patients and medical professionals much sooner than originally planned  . . . although they didn’t provide any savings estimates.”

There is, of course, no direct parallel between the federal healthcare system and any single private sector system, but it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps the shift from pursuing a single EHR to figuring out ways of making current technologies more interoperable will become a trend.  Indeed, there are times when we wonder if, given the rapid change of technology, the notion of a discrete, freestanding record, as opposed to an infinitely more malleable way of storing information, will become a thing of the past sooner rather than later.

Other steps announced by the department include:

·      March: The departments will select a core set of iEHR capabilities.

·      May: Patients in both departments will be able to download their medical records in what is known as the Blue Button initiative.

·      September: The departments will have a common authoritative source for health data.

·      July: The Janus graphical user interface will be deployed at seven rehab sites.

·      December: Health care data will be standardized and the graphical user interface will be upgraded, enabling the real-time exchange of data between the two departments. 

2013-02-08 14:47:03



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