At VA, All 2015 IT Budget Roads Lead To VistA

Tom O’Keefe | Government Health IT | August 25, 2014

Thanks to the bipartisan agreement authorizing approximately $16 billion to help veterans avoid the problems with health care that have long plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs, the bulk of VA IT support is headed largely in one direction.  VA IT budgeting has experienced steady growth over the past several fiscal years, culminating in a budget request of $4.03 billion in FY2015. VA spending has been focused on development of its own electronic health record system: VistA (Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture). This is as opposed to the common integrated health record called for through the Interagency Program Office (IPO) formed by the National Defense Authorization Act.

In February of last year, DOD and VA announced they would concentrate on integrating health data. The two organizations will use what was the Integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR) to acquire infrastructure and data interoperability capability. The idea is to securely and reliably exchange standardized, normalized, and correlated health data with all partners through data exchange mechanisms such as data interoperability accelerators and single sign-on capabilities. This will improve the way the two organizations access, talk to, and understand each other.

Let’s be frank: VistA, once considered a hallmark electronic health record system, has fallen behind the times. Nevertheless, the VA has decided to put almost all its eggs in this same basket. To understand how the VA’s FY15 budget is being directed in this near unilateral approach to solving the veteran’s health care problem, let’s look at the three most heavily budgeted VA programs...