Harris to Lead the Way with VA and DoD EHR integration

Published: March 06, 2013

DEFENSEElectronic Health RecordHealth CareHealth ITVA

Harris announced this week that it has been authorized to deploy an enterprise service bus to connect VA and DoD electronic health records (EHR) systems.

VA and DoD received much criticism from Congress last month at the announcement that they were cancelling their joint EHR development effort due to ever-increasing cost estimates.  The original joint iEHR had been pegged around $4 to $6 billion, but new estimates from September 2012 skyrocketed to nearly $12 billion.  However, DoD and VA still plan to improve and integrated existing EHR systems in order to be able to share information across departmental health care facilities.  VA CIO Roger Baker told NextGov in a press call last week that the two departments plan to spend the same $4 to $6 billion on as many as 50 joint and shared medical applications such as pharmacy and laboratory systems.

In early February, DoD released an RFI for an EHR system, entitled Medical Electronic DoD Integrated Core System (MEDICS).  In response, VA proposed that they adopt its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, known as VistA, which would lead to plug and play compatibility.  DoD is considering this option along with other commercial solutions.


Meanwhile Harris has been hard at work conducting a Critical Design Review in order to implement a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) suite to support information sharing across VA and DoD platforms.  The Harris contract was awarded in April 2012, after the abrupt cancellation of a previous award to ASM Research due to a possible organizational conflict of interest.  Harris Healthcare Solutions received the $80 million task order under the VA’s T4 contract vehicle to provide an architecture and joint execution strategy for the two agencies.  The multi-year task order calls for the development of a middle layer of software called an enterprise service bus that was to serve as the “heart of the new iEHR,” according to Baker.  Although the development of a completely new iEHR has been scrapped, the service bus will enable integration of legacy data, real-time information exchange, and new types of clinical collaboration. 


Harris’ Authorization to Operate enables deployment of the SOA suite in facilities in San Antonio, TX and Hampton Roads, VA, for testing purposes before it is more broadly deployed.  According to a Harris press release, “The SOA Suite provides a single solution for the two agencies. It will integrate existing and future systems, applications and medical data utilizing state-of-art Commercial Off-the-Shelf and Open Source technologies to provide secure, reliable, and high-performance implementation for health record data exchange across the DoD and VA healthcare systems.


Although Congress and GAO have their doubts as to whether integration of existing DoD and VA health records systems can deliver the same results as a completely new iEHR in a shorter period of time and at a lower cost, the two agencies continue to plod toward that goal.