Electronic health records
Report spots problems in VA’s health
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ HealtheVet program, which aims
to consolidate the department’s electronic health records system, likely
will fail unless significant changes are made, according to a report by
Carnegie Mellon University.
“Current plans are not realistic given the complexity and magnitude of [HealtheVet]
and VA’s ability” to carry them out, according to the report.
According to the report, the HealtheVet program does not have a “clear
vision,” and officials lack adequate knowledge about the required
large-scale system integration or proposed technology products and
The report also found that the project is driven by deadlines rather
than results; the VA has not properly assessed risks and alternatives;
managers at headquarters do not listen to experts; and the
project-management office lacks the necessary staff, authority,
responsibility and operational procedures.
The report recommends that the VA develop a better understanding of how
people use its current system and a clearer vision of how the system
The VA also should consider how the entire system would be affected if
the department modified certain features, according to the report.
The HealthVet program would be an Internet-based program written in
common computer languages. It would allow veterans to access their
records online, schedule appointments and refill prescriptions. The VA
planned to develop and install the system over the next five years.
The department expects development costs to be between US$1 billion and
$2 billion, and total maintenance and development costs over 10 years
are projected at US$3.5 billion.
U.S. President Bush, in his fiscal year 2006 budget, allocated $311
million to help develop the program.
Rep C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) after reviewing the report said the House
Appropriations Committee will launch an investigation, and the funding
would receive “extra scrutiny.” Carnegie Mellon conducted the study
between November 2004 and January 2005 and interviewed more than 100 VA