November 25, 2013 | By David Perera
The contract for the enterprise service bus meant to connect the electronic health records of the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs has not been canceled, say military and industry officials, although an industry executive said that funding for it has been reduced.
Harris Corp. won a contract in March 2012 to implement IBM middleware connecting the DoD and VA sides of what was meant to be a single EHR system. The two departments’ secretaries canceled the system, known as the iEHR, in February 2013 for cost reasons.
At the time, federal officials stressed that work on the ESB would continue and would provide a way for the separately coded and maintained EHRs to communicate. In addition, the ESB is meant to provide a common identity verification function.
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Since the cancelation, the fate of the DoD-VA integrated program office meant to supervise development of the iEHR came under increasing shades of doubt, also throwing a shadow over the ESB.
Recent moves by the Pentagon have exacerbated that doubt–decisions such as creation of a new office within the newly established Defense Health Agency to oversee acquisition of a new, DoD-only EHR, the disappearance of the IPO’s webpage, and the quiet stepping down of Barclay Butler, head of the IPO, in September.
During the early fall, it did look like the ESB would become another bullet point in that litany, acknowledged the executive, who spoke on condition of background. But Pentagon officials have lately decided to again support the ESB, the executive said, noting that the requirement for some degree of interoperability between VA and DoD systems hasn’t gone away.
“Yes, there are aspects associated with defunding, and we did have some funding cuts, but we have a role to play that people are recognizing,” the executive said.
In written answers to questions, the Defense Health Agency said that the ESB has been deployed to six locations, four within the DoD and two within the VA, and that it has a three year authorization to operate. In a testing setting, the ESB sustained a throughput rate of more than 44,000 messages per second, the agency added.
“This task order has not been canceled. The DoD and VA are currently working to appropriately align the SOA Suite task order to support the interoperability requirements of the departments,” the agency said.
Funding is currently $45.6 million, the agency also said–$25.1 million from the DoD and $20.5 million from the VA.
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