Wednesday, May 13, 2009

VA's Information Tech Focus

The VA is requesting $3,307 billion for FY 2010 excluding the Recovery Act stimulus funding for $50.1 million. This is an increase of $559 million or 20 percent above 2009 to support Information and Technology.

In April, President Obama along with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki and Defense Secretary Gates, took the first step to create a Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record. The two Departments will leverage information sharing programs and infrastructure, expand existing initiatives, and implement health benefits and personnel communities as technology advances. DOD and VA are committed to achieving clinical interoperable EHR systems by September 30, 2009.

The Departments recognize that the information does not always need to be computable to be of value. In many cases, just making information viewable by users may be the most cost effective way to meet the need. For example, unstructured text or scanned documents may be the best current form for some information.

With the release of the VA FY 2010 budget request, the goal is to build modern IT systems that will move the agency into the 21st century. The VA know that this can only be done with a modern IT infrastructure, a high performing IT workforce, and a state-of-the-art information system in healthcare.

Planning and architectural design efforts to implement an interoperable electronic health and benefits record systems will take place in conjunction with the Office of the National Coordinator’s National Health Information Network initiative.

The VA’s Next Generation HealtheVet System and the VistA Legacy System, differs as to how information will be stored and available. The next generation HealtheVet will provide clinical decision support tools so that clinicians can access and compute healthcare information regardless of where the veteran receives care. VistA Legacy is structured according to the location where the veteran received care, and this means that the clinician must view the information on a location by location basis.

The next generation HealtheVet program improvement activities include pharmacy reengineering (to improve pharmacy operations, customer service, and patient safety), scheduling replacement (to improve staff and medical resource management to reduce clinic wait times and to do a better job of coordinating care), and VistA Laboratory Information System reengineering (to enrich service to veterans by enhancing pathology and laboratory medicine service business processes.

The modernization of VistA into the HealtheVet environment is being structured into blocks, with completion targeted for 2018. Block One spans FY 2008 through 2011, when further development will be done on enrollment application system scheduling, expand barcode usage, deal with laboratory and pharmacy issues, work on standardization, provide for workflow engineering compensation and pension records interchange, improve clinical decision support, provide improved services for emergency rooms, provide for VA/DOD seamless care, improve surveillance on healthcare acquired infection and influenza, implant a joint inpatient electronic health record, and provide for even better mental healthcare for veterans.

The stakeholders working on the development of next generation HealtheVet will continue to meet and work intensively throughout FY 2010 to refine and finalize requirements for upcoming development blocks as well as work on the HealtheVet Integrated Program Plan.