Chopra on The Daily Show: Defends VA Health-Care Systems

Jon Stewart quizzes the former federal CTO on why data-sharing problems have not been fixed.

Aneesh Chopra with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show
Comedy Central/The Daily Show
In an appearance on The Daily Show to promote his new book Innovative State, former federal CTO and Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra conceded that integrating disparate legacy systems remains a long way off, and he offered a novel workaround -- empower individuals directly with their own records.

Host Jon Stewart has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration over the burgeoning scandal around Veterans Affairs amid damaging revelations about the VA clinics designed to help them.

Stewart wanted to know why the same kind of extraordinary effort that went into fixing the troubled couldn't be used to help veterans by getting systems at the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense to talk to each other. Chopra said a centralized system remains a long way off because, "the ability to take information and share it with others was not part of the original design." And he cautioned, "You don't want to force them together by brute force and ... risk that you've got the wrong medication list for the patient and you issue the wrong dose. That is introducing harm."

Chopra conceded that "you don't want the veteran to have to go through the work of getting their data." That option, however, is safe and secure, he said, but the systems that have the data can give them to the individual veteran.

Citing an effort to digitize veterans' health records that has helped reduce backlogs by half, Chopra said millions of veterans can now "download securely electronic records of those same records." With them, said Chopra, government can "empower people to have better lives."

In an animated and civil exchange, Stewart playfully referred to Chopra as the "Indian George Clooney" twice during the interview, but remained unsatisfied with the state of innovation in the administration. "This is not an attack on the good-hearted people that worked to fix it," said the host, "but it is hard to swallow the idea that, hey, we've cut it 50 percent in seven years."

Paul W. Taylor is the Executive Editor at E.Republic and of its flagship titles - Government Technology and Governing.
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