VA Electronic Health Records

May 8, 2013

Nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population is potentially eligible for veteran benefits and services, including former members of the armed services, spouses, children and survivors. The VA health system is expansive but so filled with red tape and bureaucracy that its cost overruns and failures measure in the billions. The poor state of the VA system does not bode well for the Affordable Care Act, another health system filled with bureaucracy, says Kyle Buckley, a graduate student fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis and a veteran of the U.S. Army.

  • The VA has possibly the largest integrated health and information technology (IT) system in the world with more than 8,000 IT staff supporting 300,000 VA employees.
  • More than $1 billion has been spent on integrating Department of Defense medical records with VA electronic health records for veterans with service-connected conditions, but no progress has been made in achieving this goal.
  • The failure to develop and integrate the two systems has led to difficulties for veterans seeking health services, which ultimately raises the bill for the taxpayer.

Electronic health records (EHR) store data and allow health care professionals to track treatment details while minimizing paperwork and streamlining the availability of data.

  • Despite promises to increase the reliance on EHRs, the VA maintains the same number as it did in 2007 -- just 5.4 million.
  • Efforts to create interactive software and health records programs for veterans, like the MyHealtheVet and the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record system, have been largely unsuccessful, with low participation and accessibility rates.
  • More than a decade after release, only 3.2 percent of all veterans use MyHealtheVet.
  • Only 1 percent of all veterans are able to access their Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record.

The VA's electronic health systems have cost more than $16 billion, with the Office of Information Technology operating with a $3.3 billion annual budget and additional $60 billion for VA administrative costs.

The VA stands as a stark reminder that health care savings are rarely found through bureaucratic efficiency, one of the assumptions underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act.

Source: Kyle Buckley, "VA Electronic Health Records: What Federally Mandated Health Integration Really Looks Like," National Center for Policy Analysis, May 2013.

 

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