OpinionTrending Commentary

The VA Is Finally Catching Up With The 21st Century

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America’s veterans deserve world-class healthcare. But for years, the infrastructure established to meet their needs has fallen short.

Foremost among the shortcomings is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) computer software system that can generously be described as a decades-old, outdated mess.

In fact, it long ago stopped even being a system. Since the 1980s (and even further back), each VA hospital has been operating in a siloed environment and unilaterally changing its computer software. There is some logic to customization and each hospital being able to innovate and tailor software to serve its veterans best.

However, the larger VA system wasn’t designed to recognize and implement those changes to ensure interoperability and continuity.

As a result, every software modification a VA hospital independently applies moves it further away from compatibility with other VA hospitals, as well as any other health-care records system on the planet. Now, nearly half a century into VA software deployment, the health records of our nation’s heroes are marooned within individual hospitals from which they cannot digitally escape.

This reality has created an entirely avoidable records nightmare for the veterans — and everyone else involved in their care. Any time a veteran travels outside the bounds of his local VA hospital–he leaves behind his health records. No other medical office he visits — government or private — can access his or her records.

It is 2024. This is unconscionable. And it does not take much of a logical leap to realize the catastrophic and potentially deadly consequences of this antiquated process.

Thankfully, that VA system replacement is currently underway. On a hospital-by-hospital basis–to ensure successful implementation.

That’s the great news. The even better news? The Department of Defense (DOD) has already almost fully — and very successfully implemented its version of the system.

In 2023, DOD nearly completed a full deployment of its new Electronic Health Record (EHR) system — called MHS GENESIS — with only four locations remaining to deploy in early 2024. After these DOD EHR system deployments, U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas Cantilina, the Defense Health Agency’s chief health informatics officer, said:

“In 2016, we had a disjointed system, and we just couldn’t make the old systems do what we needed them to do … now we have a single system that is more secure, brings more capability for patients and providers, and provides greater interoperability of patient information across all military hospitals and clinics and with the VA.”

A leading hospital-survey group’s evaluation showed that the new EHR at DOD is outperforming DOD’s previous legacy systems on safe medication ordering, which increases patient safety. And what’s great for our service men and women – will be great for our veterans- but this is a long-haul process, and we should do everything we can to make sure that expediting the overhaul of these systems is a top priority.

As service members transition out of the DOD and into care at the VA, the importance of a single, lifetime EHR that goes with the veteran to the VA, or wherever they receive their care, is more important than ever.

With DOD’s foundational EHR complete, the overall project to modernize EHRs for our service members and veterans is halfway done, but we need to do everything we can to ensure the job gets done swiftly.

If we do, the VA’s implementation of their version of the DOD system will ensure seamless, optimal health care for our service men and women. Both during their service and after, which is exactly what each and every one of them has earned.

Jason Gorey is an expert and leader in U.S. defense innovation, industrial base and supply chains. Jason received his commission through Georgetown University ROTC and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as an Army Reserve Officer.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

 

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One Comment

  1. same old story, we need a new bently to replace our computers. computers can be updated by expanding its insides. put a new corvette engine in a 57 chevy and you’ve got a racing machine. the va was sold substandard software and a few companies got rich off it. now new companies want in on uncle sugars deep pockets, after all it’s for the veterans.

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