EHR Failure Partly To Blame For VA Troubles

Kenneth Corbin | CIO | July 23, 2014

In a wide-ranging critique of federal IT, former defense secretary Robert Gates says the inability to set up an electronic health record system linking the Pentagon and the VA is one of his 'chief regrets.’

The troubles at the Department of Veterans Affairs are in part the result of the failure to set up a system of electronic health records (EHR), former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.  "One of my chief regrets as defense secretary was the Pentagon's inability to come up with a common platform for sharing electronic medical records with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which continues to be the cause of much delay and dysfunction, as we have recently seen," Gates said in remarks at a federal IT forum.

Showing no nostalgia for his time in Washington, Gates, who led the Defense Department under Presidents Bush and Obama, reflected on many of the challenges and frustrations of revamping the technology apparatus within the government's largest purchaser of IT.He described an environment where bureaucratic institutions stand in the way of innovation and nimble development of new applications and processes. In that context, setting up an EHR system for the VA proved too tall of an order.

That department has since become engulfed in a scandal involving long wait times for veterans seeking care that ultimately forced the secretary of the department to step down. The department's inspector general is currently conducting an investigation to determine how many veterans died while awaiting treatment at VA facilities...