March 4, 2016 | By Molly Bernhart Walker
The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago is the first attempt to fully integrate the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments’ healthcare facilities, but officials told the Government Accountability Office they have no plans to find common ground on a single-network IT infrastructure at the facility.
Difficulties managing network connections and providing seamless access to software applications stemmed from the facility’s complex IT infrastructure, according to a GAO report published Feb. 29.
User credentials are a recurring problem, said auditors. For example, clinicians must access both VA’s Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA, and DoD’s Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application, or AHLTA, to view complete patient prescription information.
Staff who do not routinely see both VA and DoD patients are less likely to regularly log in to both systems, but user credentials expire after different lengths of time for VistA and AHLTA due to differences in VA and DOD policies. Logins expire every 90 days for VistA and every 60 days for AHLTA, said the report.
“When access to VistA or AHLTA is lost, patient orders and test results may be incomplete, delayed or not transmitted, potentially impacting patient care and impeding staff efficiency,” said GAO.
IT infrastructure at the facility is actually comprised of three networks to accommodate differences in VA and DOD network security standards, and GAO found the departments spent approximately $17 million from 2011 to 2015 to troubleshoot the hospital’s network infrastructure, local IT capabilities and other IT issues.
Defense officials interviewed for the report said they are working with VA to upgrade the infrastructure, but both departments said there are no plans to resolve differences in network security standards or stand up a single-network IT infrastructure.
“According to VA officials, this is due, at least in part, to the departments’ different missions,” said the report.
The report, which made eight recommendations to the departments overall, also highlighted organizational challenges, such as VA and DoD’s struggles to select facility leadership.
“VA and DOD did not use – and have not yet developed – FHCC specific criteria to select individuals for the facility’s director (from VA) and deputy director (from the Navy) positions to ensure that they would be well suited for a collaborative environment,” said the report.
The departments also had a hard time making decisions regarding the integration of the civilian and active duty personnel at the facility. That’s in part because the facility did not conduct comprehensive, data-driven staffing analyses – considered a federal human capital management best practice.
“In December 2015, FHCC officials told GAO they had developed an initiative in the interim for reviewing staffing until VA and DOD conduct a more formal, comprehensive, data-driven review of the FHCC’s workforce,” said the report.
– download the report (.pdf)
Article link: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/va-dod-refuse-find-common-ground-it-infrastructure-joint-hospital/2016-03-04?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRokuanIe%252B%252FhmjTEU5z14ugrX6K3lMI%252F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ET8JmNK%252BTFAwTG5toziV8R7LMKM1ty9MQWxTk