Thursday, August 13, 2009

Restructuring the DVA Part 3: IT Data Sharing

One of the complaints placed before an apparently gullible Congress is the inability over the decades to marry the Information Technology [IT - meaning computer systems and networks] systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA] and the Department of Defense [DoD] for medical and service records for troops transitioning from Active Military to Veteran status after wounding or injury in combat or in routine service.

Government Departments tend to stovepipe, blowing their smoke straight up. As a result, since the dawn of the computer age, each government department tended to order their own equipment, their own layouts for networking and their own software versions of what is on the market. So the DoD, with System A on network 1 can't talk directly with System B on the DVA's network 2. At least that is what they tell Congress.

It is pure horse puckey. IT departments in business and in Government get complacent in their uniqueness, and in some cases think they own and operate the department they serve. They jealously guard their terriory, just like the rhino that craps in the corners of his territory. [See Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey.] Accordingly, they jealously guard their systems under the pretext of system and network security and do not allow data to either come in, or go out except by authorized users. Authorized users from other departments do not cross departmental lines. Therefore, data are seldom shared without jackhammers and an occasional stick of blasting dynamite.

The solution is simple. Networking has progressed today to the point that two networks can communicate with each other securely simply by easily written software code that allows two machines to talk to each other. It is like adding someone else's computer to your home network.

As for the computer language differences, the solution is also simple. Two small workgroups decide on the definitions of each data element to be shared. Data elements would be such things as Last Name, Age, Date of Birth, Service Number, Social Security Number, medical condition one, medical condfition two, home address, date of wound, date of injury, combat related yes, combat related no, and so on.

Once these small work groups from DVA and DoD agree on the definitions of all the data elements, mapping begins. Mapping simply is matching up one string of data elements to another, so that the data is shifted to the appropriate database and table. Once the mapping is done, data exchange can occur.

DoD then sends their entire database of medical and service records for individuals transferring from active military to Veteran status.

Data exchange has occurred at this point. All DVA needs to do is run a match to find previous data that matches, and only update where new data comes in.

The new [non-matched] individuals are automatically assigned claim numbers [a separate database would hold ID data that matches claim number, service number, and social security number for a three part validation system to eliminate ID errors] and their cases are assigned to claims processors who now no longer have to establish who they are dealing with and how they came to be wounded or injured Veterans. Now they only need to deal with the severity of the problem, where they will receive treatment, and authorize their compensation checks.

Done on a nightly basis so new data arrives fresh every morning, this system of data exchange will eliminate long backlogs of unprocessed claims for those transitioning from active military to disabled Veteran status.

Think about how simple this is. If Google can tap into millions of databases around the world to find websites and match those websites to your search criteria, and do it in many different languages, why should it be so difficult for DoD and DVA to share their medical and service record data?

Next: Tackling the older Veterans claims backlog.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

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