Duplicative Federal HIT Projects

By September 27, 2013 Commentary

The federal government spends over $80 billion annually on information technology.  A very large percentage of this is spent on useless, abandoned and non-functioning software and systems.  The Government Accounting Office issues a report focusing on duplicative systems, which would obviously be wasteful, and if implemented, cause work process and quality issues.    (GAO Report)   The report looks at the three largest spenders, which includes HHS and the Department of Defense, and the DOD projects examined related to health care.  The GAO identified a total of 10 duplicative projects in four areas related to health care at the two agencies, with a total cost in the last five years of about $290 million, with more undoubtedly to come.  In DOD one set of duplicative projects was to track health care of active duty combatants and one was for dental care management.  In HHS, one set of duplicative projects was for Medicare coverage determinations and there were four projects on enterprise information security which were deemed duplicative.  Now given HHS’ overall HIT record maybe they need to make multiple bets just to have a better likelihood that at least one system will actually work.  But one can easily imagine that these projects reflect typical bureaucratic turf protection and infighting and the usual lack of coordination in a large organization among multiple groups and sub-groups.  Whatever the explanation, the waste of taxpayer dollars is inexcusable.  GAO has explored this issue before and it doesn’t look like things are getting any better, another feature of large government.

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