Weak coordination hampers efforts on medical databases

Efforts by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to create a medical database that works across their jurisdictions have been hampered by weak interagency coordination and the lack of a broad vision for the health network, an expert said Wednesday.

Valerie Melvin, the assistant director of information management issues at the General Accounting Office (GAO), testified that while she has been encouraged by recent agency presentations on their progress, overall the agencies have been "severely challenged" in creating a virtual medical-records system as part of their Health-e-People e-government initiative.

Other witnesses who spoke to a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee added that the creation of an e-records system for the healthcare industry is necessary to reduce costs and eliminate preventable medical errors by caregivers.

"[Veterans Affairs] and [Defense] continue to lack a clearly defined architecture and technological solution for developing the electronic interface and associated capability for exchanging patient health information between their new systems," Melvin said. "Moreover, the departments remain challenged to articulate a clear vision of how this capability will be achieved and in what time frame."

Melvin said the initiative lacks a "fully established project-management structure," with relationships among managers not clearly established and no lead entity for final decisions.

Meanwhile, agency officials told GAO that they are moving ahead with an electronic pharmacy system, which GAO questioned given the lack of an overall strategy for the initiative.

"Until these critical components have been put into place, the departments will continue to lack a convincing position regarding their approach to and progress toward achieving the Health-e-People goals and, ultimately, risk jeopardizing the initiative's overall success," Melvin said.

Jonathan Javitt, chairman of the health subcommittee of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, said creating an electronic system is vital to reducing death and injury from medical errors.

"It is time we stopped delivering 21st-century care using administrative methods that were well established when Hippocrates entered practice more than 2,000 years ago," he said. "There are simply too many bits of information for the human computer to track perfectly, particularly when patients are cared for by multiple doctors."

He estimated that electronic systems already cut between $80 billion to $350 billion in costs annually, but the lack of comprehensive national studies makes calculating such savings unreliable.

Jonathan Perlin, acting undersecretary for health, demonstrated a prototype electronic-records system for the subcommittee and touted its benefits.

And James Reardon, chief information officer with the Military Health System, described ongoing information-sharing efforts among the Defense Health Technology Program and other departments and agencies.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.