Annual spending on healthcare by the Department of Defense (DoD) is budgeted at $53 billion for the current fiscal year, and is expected to double by 2030.

A key section of this overall budget is the DoD’s planned $11 billion acquisition of a commercial, electronic health record (EHR) system, which has gotten a lot of press, but according to FCW, it’s only part of the story.

Dave Bowen, Director of the Health Information Technology (HIT) Directorate for the Defense Health Agency (DHA), is spearheading a highly ambitious project.   Years in the making, he is unifying healthcare resources into a single, cohesive system, which involves pulling together IT organizations, as well as standardizing data collection.

The DHA was established in October 2013 as the first military-wide health system to deliver care, logistics, and facilities – more on a shared services basis to all the branches of the armed forces.

This mission is no small challenge.

“We’ve got a spaghetti pile of data transmission that we’ve got to work through,” said Bowen at an ACT-IAC Health IT Forum in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24th.

The challenges include having more than 400 hospitals and clinics with their own IT infrastructures, as well as the need for standardized data governance.

However, while much of the press coverage around these new health IT initiatives focuses on the technology, there is much more going on here.  By having a unified health IT system, based on effective use of EHRs, the DoD will be able to significantly enhance savings, as well as streamline processes and health information sharing.

But, the most important part of this story is providing positive health outcomes for the members of our military services.

And, this is something you cannot put a price tag on …