VA Modernizing Electronic Health Record System

By Chelsea Todaro
The Department of Veterans Affairs is upgrading its electronic health care system in the hope that increased interoperability will improve patient care.

ASM Research was awarded a three-year contract to modernize the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), said Jim Traficant, managing director of Accenture Federal Services, which owns ASM. The company specializes in healthcare information technology systems and cyber security.

The problem with VistA’s architecture lies in the inability of all its components to function properly when new parts are installed, he explained. “If you go to change a part of the system, you have to change the whole system.”

This makes VistA expensive and time consuming to maintain, so ASM Research has created a new platform, called VistA Core, which will allow the system’s architecture to function when new hardware and software is installed, Traficant said. “We are making it so you can enhance or replace particular functions without having to replace the whole electronic health record.”

Having easier access to medical records will allow physicians to make better decisions for the patient, without the impediment of inefficient record transfers, he said.

“You need to have doctors be efficient in what they do, so the goal is for doctors to practice medicine without thinking about the electronic health record,” Traficant said.  “We are future-proofing VistA by making it a more modern technology platform, so over time, as new technology emerges in health care, [physicians] will have better ability to move information around the VA.”

VistA Core is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2016, Traficant said. “We are on budget and are moving the project to the next stage,” he said.

Earlier this year, the VA came under fire after it was discovered that at least 30 veterans died while waiting for treatment at Veterans Health Administration facilities in Phoenix, Arizona. The VA’s inspector general did not find any problems with VistA itself, but the system’s audit and oversight features were not properly enabled, the IG report said. This limited the IG’s ability to determine “whether any malicious manipulation of the VistA data occurred.”

Accenture will not be fixing VistA’s scheduling module, which is separate from the main system, Traficant said. VistA Core will not include any additional auditing functions.

“The way we are modernizing the VA’s architecture is enabling the VA to be more effective in their interoperability challenge,” he said.

Topics: Business Trends, Infotech, Infotech

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