The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled its plan to upgrade the electronic system it uses to keep track of veterans’ medical records. The key component of the change involves significantly closer coordination between VA and the Department of Defense.
“I have decided that VA will adopt the same EHR [electronic health records] system as DoD, known as MHS Genesis,” VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin said June 5.

The change will entail phasing out VA’s VistA (Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture) system, which Shulkin said has served the agency well but is outdated.

“While we have established interoperability between VA and DoD for key aspects of the health record, seamless care is fundamentally constrained by ever-changing information sharing standards, separate chains of command, complex governance, separate implementation schedules that must be coordinated to accommodate those changes from separate program offices that have separate funding appropriations, and a host of related complexities requiring constant lifecycle maintenance,” Shulkin said.

“And the bottom line is we still don’t have the ability to trade information seamlessly for our veteran patients and seamlessly,” he said.
Once the shift to the Defense Department’s EHR system, veterans’ patient information will reside in one place. Medical and clinical staffs within the two departments would gain seamless access to those records.

Shulkin pointed out that his announcement marked only the beginning of the process, and that full implementation will take time and coordination between the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments.

He noted that VA has “unique needs, and many of those are different from the DoD.”
As such, VA will not simply adopt the Pentagon’s system as is. VA clinicians will play a key role in deciding what the system will look like. Special attention will be paid to the needs of the communities, academic institutions and vendors with whom VA works.