The Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) program office last month released to Congress its interoperability strategy which aims to optimize the interoperability of information systems that the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) use to support health care of active duty military and veterans.

“The Departments’ continued commitment to implementing modern and interoperable technologies to support health and benefits delivery presents tremendous opportunities, including use of the vast data stored in their systems to enhance the overall health of the beneficiary population, maximize access to earned benefits and improve the quality and safety of the care and services provided, while also driving down costs,” said Dr. Neil Evans, interim director of the FEHRM program office, in a letter to Congress.

The interoperability strategy highlights seamless care and benefits as its “north star,” and works toward four goals, including:

  1. Promoting health and wellness;
  2. Enhancing the delivery and experience of care;
  3. Building a secure, data-driven ecosystem to accelerate research and innovation; and
  4. Connect health care and health data.

“Note that the title of this strategy focuses on interoperability, but the vision is about seamless care and benefits,” the strategy states. “Whereas interoperability is the ability of technologies to exchange and use information, seamless care and benefits is the experience of human beings that interoperability enables.”

Delivery of the strategy document to Congress marks another step forward for the DoD, VA, and FEHRM partnership in modernizing health care. Back in April, DoD and VA collaborated with the FEHRM program office to stand up a modernized health data sharing capability to enhance records exchange among community health care partners, and make the exchange more secure.

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic underlines the importance for clinicians on the front lines to quickly access a patient’s health record, regardless of where that patient previously received care,” Dr. Evans said at the time.

For its part, Congress has been watching the DoD and VA EHR modernization process closely through numerous hearings on the issue, including a hearing on Sept. 30 at which a VA official pledged the agency would go live with on Oct. 24 with a transition of electronic health records at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., to a Cerner-based system.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.