Modernizing IT at the VA

Scott Blackburn in charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) https://www.va.gov  Office of Information and Technology (OIT) https://www.oit.va.gov testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform https://oversight.house.gov, Subcommittee on Information Technology on December 7, 2017. He discussed the progress that the VA is making with their information technology modernization efforts and how the VA’s cybersecurity strategy is moving forward.

According to Blackburn, the VA’s plan for IT includes reducing the reliance on legacy systems while leveraging cloud digital platforms. Currently, the VA is incorporating innovative technologies such as telehealth, robotics, artificial intelligence, mobile devices machine learning, blockchain and digital services to increase access, engagement, and interoperability.

OIT is working hard on their EHR Modernization effort and beginning to work toward adopting a new EHR system using the same state-of-the-art solution currently being deployed by the Department of Defense (DOD) www.defense.gov.

The VA’s plan is to soon finalize and sign a contract with Cerner Corporation to begin working on their first pilot sites located in Washington State. The adoption of the same system between VA and DOD will enable all patient data to reside in a common system so there will be a seamless link between the Departments without the manual or electronic exchange of information.

As Blackburn explained, “Today, VA and DOD share more medical information than any two healthcare organizations in the country. Previously, the Joint Legacy Viewer (JLV) was developed and deployed in close collaboration with DOD to enable data sharing capabilities.”

He said, “Currently, the JLV is available to all clinicians in every VA facility and is a web-based user interface that provides clinicians with an intuitive display of DOD and VA healthcare data on a single screen. As of November 1, 2017, the latest data identified 89,623 DOD and 332,586 VA users. While JLV is very valuable, the proposed new EHR will add and improve the capabilities we have today in JLV.”

An important commitment for the VA is to develop an effective cybersecurity strategy so the agency has developed five strategic cybersecurity goals. These include protecting veteran information and data, which means the system has to be resilient to threats, enable the VA to keep pace with evolving cyber threats and technological innovations, and for the VA to recruit, develop, and retain a talented cybersecurity and privacy workforce.

The VA has completed a proof of concept for the VA’s Digital Health Platform which is now called the Digital Veteran Platform (DVP). DVP is a new concept in healthcare information technology management that will enable interoperability to exist among systems much more efficiently that traditional system integration efforts.

Also, DVP will create an open accessible platform to be used not only for veterans’ care but also for advanced knowledge sharing clinical decision support, technical expertise and process, and interoperability with organizations throughout the U.S care delivery system.

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