Funding hold up delays joint patient record effort

Funding setbacks have pushed the Government Computer-Based Patient Record program off
schedule by three to four months.


Funding hit a snag last fall when the Defense Department reviewed its $10 million share
for the program, said Peter Groen, GCPR project manager and deputy assistant chief
information officer at the Veterans Health Administration.


“This resulted in delays in the first quarter of 1999,” Groen said.
“However, Defense has resolved its funding problems, and GCPR is a project that is
moving forward.”


The Veterans Affairs Department joined forces with Defense and the Indian Health
Service in January of last year on the multiyear project, whose cost is expected to exceed
$50 million. The program will let the three agencies move patient records electronically
among their systems.


Defense chipped in its share for the program in late fall, said Dr. Janet Martino, GCPR
deputy project manager, who works in the health affairs critical business area of the
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense.


Program funding went under review in Defense’s 1999 budget process, which affects
all military health programs, Martino said.


“There was a mismatch in VA’s and the Defense Department’s budget
allocation processes,” she said.


The project team this month expects to sign a contract with Litton PRC for around $20
million to complete Phase 1 of the program, Groen said.


With funding in place, the team will move forward on the first phase, which covers
hardware, software, data management and security, said Groen, who assumed the project
manager title when Maureen Coyle left VHA in mid-January for a private-sector job.


The team in late August awarded the contract to Litton PRC. Original plans called for
the team to issue task and delivery orders in October, Martino said.


The agencies had determined in December 1997 they should share records. They treat the
same people, keep records throughout a patient’s lifetime and spend a lot of money
sending records back and forth, Groen said.


“The GCPR’s framework is focused on developing an information
interoperability infrastructure,” Martino added. “The vision is we will
ultimately provide for better health care, with improved access to records and greater
cost efficiencies.”


In a demonstration set for October, the project team will transmit patient records
electronically among three facilities: VA medical center at Bay Pines, Fla., a Defense
facility in Washington and an Indian Health Services center in Arizona. More extensive
pilots will follow, Groen said.


The project team expects to finish Phase 1 by the end of next January and complete the
project’s framework by Oct. 1, 2000. 





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