Well, that didn't take long. The U.S. Senate approved a bill last week that would give the Department of Veterans Affairs $83 billion for fiscal year 2017, with added money slated for interoperability of its electronic health record and telemedicine efforts.

According to Healthcare IT News, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill provides $3.1 billion more than last year's funding, including $260 million for updating its electronic health record system and $1.17 billion for telemedicine.

This comes after earlier reports citing that the House Appropriations Committee recently approved the $260 million for the modernization of the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) electronic health record system — with no further funding for the VA until VistA was certified as interoperable with the Department of Defense's EHR.

"The bill includes language restricting the use of this funding until the VA demonstrates functional improvements in the interoperability of a system to seamlessly exchange veterans' medical data among the VA, DoD and the private sector," according to a statement issued by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who is also chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Earlier this month, the VA said it had complied with this congressional mandate, Federal News Radio recently reported. Senators passed the appropriations bill by a vote of 30-0.

"I can't believe we're still talking about doing this," Rep. Hal Rogers, (R-Ky.) said last month regarding VA interoperability. "We've been harping with both DoD and VA for years. [A] veteran, having been injured on active duty, when he comes to a VA hospital ... can't access his records from DoD; that's unacceptable. It's insane."

The goal of the original provision barring the $260 million from being passed to the VA stated that the organization needed to show interoperability to help deliver care to veterans through what the committee describes as an "accurate exchange of medical data between the VA, DoD and the private sector," ExecutiveGov reports.

According to the current bill summary, "The bill continues to include language restricting the use of 75 percent of the VistA modernization effort until the VA demonstrates functional improvements in the interoperability of a system to seamlessly exchange veterans' medical data among the VA, DoD and private sector."

The provision to withhold funds from the VA clearly had an impact; interoperability efforts seem slow at best within the VA's aged system VistA.

According to FCW, "Both House and Senate appropriators remain concerned about interoperability between VA's VistA and DoD systems, as well as the planned militarywide system that is scheduled for testing later this year."

Whether or not the VA falters again or fails to show dividends, the conversation continues to show that interoperability is an important element in the marketplace and has become a requirement of health IT systems for the benefit of patient care. Despite polluted rounds of conversation taking place in the private sector, little seems to be getting done about interoperability, with the exception of some mouthpiece efforts such as the CommonWell Health Alliance.