Report Identifies EHR Interoperability Issues at DOD, VA Facility

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An Illinois hospital that is jointly managed by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs has not fully achieved electronic health record interoperability, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine, NextGov reports (Brewin, NextGov, 10/16).

DOD commissioned the report to examine integration efforts at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Ill.

Interoperability-Related Findings

Although DOD and VA have spent more than $100 million to develop interoperable health IT systems, the report found that order portability between VA's VistA EHR system and DOD's AHLTA EHR system has not been fully achieved.

According to IOM, the lack of interoperability costs the hospital at least $700,000 annually. That figure is the amount spent on five registered pharmacists who manually check prescription orders to ensure that physicians who lack access to a particular EHR system do not prescribe drugs that could lead to dangerous interactions.

The pharmacist checks are necessary because the VistA and AHLTA EHR systems do not use the same sequential prescription numbers. The departments previously had agreed that interoperability at the Lovell health care center would not require modifications to the two EHR systems.

Recommendations

The report's authors said that a fully integrated DOD-VA medical center should do more than simply allow data from VistA and AHLTA to be read simultaneously, which currently is possible at the Lovell health care center. Instead, each EHR system should be able to compute structured data from the other system, the authors said.

The report recommended that DOD and VA not establish any more integrated health care facilities like the Lovell center until the two agencies achieve EHR system interoperability (Perera, FierceGovernmentIT, 10/16).


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