DoD, VA database mesh a model for collaboration

Monday - 6/14/2010, 7:08pm EDT

In Depth Conversation: DoD/VA health IT

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When your agency is planning to work with another agency, there are several discussions that happen before work begins. One of them involves standards - determining the language you'll use to share information and get the job done. Chuck Campbell, Chief Information Officer of the Military Health System, says it's one of the important conversations you'll have.

"Building upon the same standards in both systems allows us to be able to match up," Mr. Campbell tells me on today's In Depth Conversation, "A Model for the Country: DoD/VA Health IT Information Sharing." "If you didn't have those standards, and the same vocabulary, essentially, you wouldn't be able to do that."

The job of integrating the DoD and VA health IT databases to provide a lifetime electronic health record for both active-duty military personnel and veterans is filled with lessons learned for any agency collaboration. Dr. James Peake, Senior Vice-President for the Health Industry at CGI and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, says the most important element of interagency projects is stepping outside your own job.

"First of all, you need to understand their mission, because that's what they're going to be held accountable to," Dr. Peake says. "Then know your own mission well, and understand where those overlaps might be. That's what's going to feed the opportunities."

Dr. Peake and Mr. Campbell were my guests for the entire hour. We discussed the history of the collaboration between DoD and VA on health IT; where the collaboration stands today; goals for the next five years; and best practices other agencies can take from the work these two agencies have done together.