State health department looks to VA technology for system upgrade

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The Tennessee Department of Health wants to ditch its aging computer system for the open-source technology used by the Department of Veterans Affairs, reports The Tennessean.

It would take several years to make the switch and the agency has asked for nearly $9 million in its 2013-14 budget to cover the first year. Its 20-year-old Patient Tracking Billing Management System's limitations include being unable to create or maintain electronic health records that can be shared across local health departments.

"It was a state-of-the-art system when it was put in place in 1992. We've spent a lot of money to keep it up and running and keep it functional, but it's getting harder and harder to tape it together," John Dreyzehner, the state's health commissioner, told the newspaper. He described the existing system as "not efficient and not effective" and compared the up-front cost with building the first mile of a new interstate highway.

His budget request covers 27 employees to implement and operate the system, a cost Gov. Bill Haslam has questioned, according to The Tennessean.

The state health agency also is asking for $512,000 to develop a statewide electronic case-management system for medical examiners, a process that still relies on paper records.

The VA system, meanwhile, has been lauded for effectively tracking more than 8 million patients, Dreyzehner said.

Though at the forefront of numerous new uses of health IT, the VA's efforts to build a joint EHR system with the Department of Defense is experiencing some pain. A recent Institute of Medicine report found that lack of interoperability between systems at the flagship testing ground, Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, is adversely affecting clinical care and costing the government millions of dollars. It recommended that no new federal healthcare centers be implemented until the issues are worked out.

Additionally, misalignment of business practices also has hampered collaboration on the VA-DoD project, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

To learn more:
- here's the Tennessean article

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