VA Looks To Private Sector To Manage Electronic Medical Records

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering companies in the private sector to manage the massive database of veterans’ health records.

The VA asked for “industry feedback, guidance and recommendations” as the department looks to update its haphazard electronic health records (EHR) system in an official request for information, according to the government contracting website

The VA’s current EHR system has become unnecessarily complex “due to local customization,” and each region works differently. If the records aren’t easily transferred between hospitals, it undermines a key advantage of electronic records.

While an update to the system is needed, the fact that each region has added its own elements to the software over the years makes “modernization and standardization efforts extremely complicated, expensive and time consuming,” the request says.

The current system, Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), made the VA a “leader in the development of EHR technology” in the 1970s, according to the request. Private medical companies have made great strides in the past several decades with electronic medical records, and several members of Congress are glad the VA is moving to update their system.(RELATED: Vets Refuse To Wait Any Longer, Sue The VA For Medical Records)

“I have said it time and again: The tools to solve these problems exist in the private sector,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s IT Subcommittee, told Federal Computer Week.

“I am cautiously optimistic that this RFI will result in health care improvements for our nation’s veterans, and I look forward to continuing our oversight work to put VA on the right track,” Hurd said.
The VA’s request makes clear that they are only seeking information, and do not have definite plans to hire private sector companies to manage the EHR system.

“I’m encouraged by the steps taken today towards finding a new electronic system that works for our veterans,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told Politico’s Morning eHealth. “I’ve held an oversight hearing on this very issue and I am monitoring the VA’s progress. I look forward to seeing how the new system is implemented,” Isakson said.

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