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Better together: DoD, VA collaboration focus of DHITS session

Chris Harrington, deputy assistant director of the Defense Health Agency's Information Operations Solution Delivery Division, interacts with an attendee at the 2019 Defense Health Information Technology Symposium. Harrington spoke about DoD-VA collaboration on Wednesday, July 31, during a breakout session at DHITS. The theme of this year's DHA-sponsored event is "One Team, One Mission – Enabling MHS Transformation." (MHS photo) Chris Harrington, deputy assistant director of the Defense Health Agency's Information Operations Solution Delivery Division, interacts with an attendee at the 2019 Defense Health Information Technology Symposium. Harrington spoke about DoD-VA collaboration on Wednesday, July 31, during a breakout session at DHITS. The theme of this year's DHA-sponsored event is "One Team, One Mission – Enabling MHS Transformation." (MHS photo)

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The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs "are committed to collaborating on health IT wherever it is appropriate for both organizations," said Chris Harrington, deputy assistant director of the Defense Health Agency's Information Operations Solution Delivery Division.

He noted that joint health IT adoption doesn't occur at the expense of one organization over the other. "It accentuates and accelerates both departments' desire for transformational change," he said.

Harrington spoke about DoD-VA collaboration on Wednesday, July 31, during a breakout session at the 2019 Defense Health Information Technology Symposium, or DHITS. The theme of this year's DHA-sponsored event is "One Team, One Mission – Enabling MHS Transformation."

Harrington said the two federal departments "can count on each other to be valued, trusted, and committed partners in overall transformation activities. All health IT processes that we adopt will be true joint, interagency processes."

He noted that the transition DHA is experiencing is mirrored in the VA, and that the VA recently adopted the same electronic health record as the DoD's. The EHR will be deployed in coordination with DoD, and "the result will be a single health IT system experience that improves quality of care, access, and satisfaction for beneficiaries as well as users."

Collaboration "creates the opportunity to have longitudinal and very seamless treatment between the two organizations," Harrington added. "The EHR follows someone from accession through active duty and then after retirement."

Additionally, Harrington noted, collaboration enables data collection and mining, "which optimizes outcomes management and maximizes decisions related to purchasing and other activities."

"Standardizing the process creates a tremendous analytical engine behind that data-generation capability," he said. "It allows optimization on a business level, and also on a clinical level."

Surrounding the EHR deployment is the adoption of numerous IT applications, Harrington said. Examples include the Joint Patient Safety Reporting System, a web-based application to report events across the Military Health System and the VA; and the medical logistics IT platform known as Defense Medical Logistics Standards Support, or DMLSS. Combined with the successor system, LogiCole, this platform enhances pharmacy, medical, and surgical purchases for facilities and the combat theater. 

"Enterprise visibility – let's call it an Amazon effect of price-product comparison," Harrington said. "LogiCole allows that to happen. We won't adjudicate as a function of the IT what people purchase. But we will show them the different items that are being purchased throughout the enterprise and the relative prices, to let them make the best decisions for their respective organizations."

Harrington also said standardization of communication across the network allows reciprocity. "You won't have to do the same things over and over and over again, in different places, because you've got everyone on the same network," he said. "The standards of that network demand a certain criteria, and you meet that criteria in the cybersecurity certification of a device or IT application. With true reciprocity, you proliferate that across the enterprise."

John Short, chief technology integration officer for the VA's Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, joined Harrington in the presentation.

"Sometimes you have a functional champion; sometimes you have an IT champion," Short said. But for successful transition and collaboration, Short said, "You must have both."

DHITS brings together government, military, and industry information technology professional to share knowledge, ideas, new developments, and lessons learned. The symposium began Tuesday, July 30, and continues through Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, Florida.

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