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IG Audit Finds FEHRM Program Office Lacks Plan to Ensure EHR Interoperability

Health system

modernization lapses

IG Audit Finds FEHRM Program Office Lacks Plan to Ensure EHR Interoperability

A joint report from the inspectors general of the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs found that the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Program Office does not have a plan to ensure that the VA’s EHR system will be interoperable between the two agencies.

According to the audit, FEHRM program office officials only facilitate discussions whenever there are disputes between the DOD and the VA. Officials would also only provide direction if the departments reported a problem rather than creating a road map that would prevent interoperability problems in the first place.

The development of an action plan is required under the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Federal News Network reported.

Another finding is that both agencies did not consistently migrate patient health care information from legacy systems into the Cerner Millennium platform. The Pentagon and VA also failed to ensure that authorized users can only access needed information, which raises concerns under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The oversight bodies said in the report that achieving interoperability is critical because it will give health care providers the ability to securely transfer and share information for service members and veterans.

The director of the FEHRM program office told IGs that the office needs resources and delegations of authority from DOD and VA to address recommendations. The oversight bodies’ report noted, however, that it is the director’s responsibility to request resources and authorities.

The Cerner-based EHR system was first deployed at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. It was also activated in Walla Walla, Washington, and Columbus, Ohio, in March and April, respectively.

Prior to and since the deployments, VA has faced backlash over the lack of refinements to the system. In July 2021, the department had to pause the EHR system rollout for six months after lawmakers expressed concerns over data safety.

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Category: Federal Civilian