Friday, April 10, 2009

Despite Barack Obama's promises, EMR for the VA and DOD will take a lot of time

President Barack Obama announced  that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration will soon have an electronics medical record online, but I have to believe that this is wishful thinking on his part.

It's not that I am against an EMR, but I am a realist when it comes to seeing the government embrace the use of technology.  

For an EMR to work, the DOD and VA would have to create an acceptable blueprint of what should be included in this record.   As my client, Scott Kaeppel, the president of the Operari Group  about technology design projects, it's important for both groups to agree upon a standard before they design it.

That's going to take time, as the culture of both organizations is entirely different.  The military medical community is filled with innovators and free thinkers, while the VA is made up of bureaucrats who resist change.

Once the design is in place, both organizations have to embrace change management within both organizations.    David Jemeyson, the chief executive officer of xGates would tell you that it would take a lot of training and some more time before the rank and file would embrace the EMR's full deployment.

Finally, change in government is as slow as a turtle in the Boston Marathon.  Government workers don't get financial incentives for embracing something that will save them money or time.  While there are a few people who truly want to bring change within government circles, the government culture doesn't reward or even embrace innovation.

So, while I agree with Obama that we need to have a standard EMR for all veterans, I am enough of a realist that I know this change won't happen within his first administration.  Change within a business environment where there are the financial resources and the willingness to fund the costs to make the change would take a couple of years.  With the government, you can double if not triple that time for them to embrace an EMR.

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