Defense, VA Plan to Have Interoperable Health Records by September

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January 20, 2009 – A high-level management committee from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments said they plan to have interoperable health records by September as part of a program between the two departments to streamline information sharing, according to a report released last week.

Defense and VA launched a health information sharing project in 2000 and now share exchange a vast amount of medical data, including lab results and medication history through its their Bi-Directional Health Information Exchange.

The two departments will continue to share more inpatient electronic data, including clinical notes from physicians, according to the 2009-2011 strategic plan issued by the VA/Defense Joint Executive Council. Gordon Mansfield, deputy secretary at VA who chairs the council, and David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of Defense personnel and readiness, issued the report last week.

The two departments plan to exchange clinical notes, which doctors write to report patients’ conditions, in a test environment this June and to complete deploying the inpatient clinical note system by Sept. 30. VA and Defense’s Military Health System expect to begin operating a secure, redundant network to support health data exchange by June 30.

VA and Defense also plan to begin sharing chemistry and hematology information in real time at all their medical facilities by Oct. 31, according to the strategic plan. In addition, Defense will start deploying a system to automatically capture and display neuropsychological assessment data essential in identification and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder by Jan. 31, 2010.

The report recommended that Defense exchange health care information with private sector managed care contractors that provide medical care for active-duty personnel and their families and veterans, as well. Defense is slated to begin in-depth analysis to identify data sharing requirements in March.

Eric Shinseki, expected to be confirmed as the VA secretary in the Obama administration on Tuesday, told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Jan. 14 that he would work with the Joint Executive Council and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ensure exchange of health information between the two departments, and he viewed any obstacles to data sharing as a managerial rather than a technical problem.

The strategic plan also revealed that the Veterans Tracking Application, originally developed by Defense to follow wounded personnel evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq, will be enhanced to maintain a common database of severely injured service members for a new version of the Defense Disability Evaluation System, which is used to evaluate wounded service members.

The plan also called for development of a My eBenefits Web site, which will serve as a single information source for service members and veterans as directed in an August 2007 report issued by the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. The commission said a portal should have been be in operation by August 2008.

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