DoD, VA building on early success of joint e-health record

Tuesday - 5/22/2012, 6:06am EDT

Jason Miller, executive editor, Federal News Radio

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The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs still are five years from their deadline to have a joint, interoperable electronic health record. But early success at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) in Chicago is paving the way for further tests.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced Monday hospitals in San Antonio and Hampton Roads, Va., would be the next facilities to implement the initial capabilities of the electronic health record (EHR) by 2014.

"Today I want to affirm that we are fully committed to putting this system, which will be the world's largest electronic health record system, to putting it in place by 2017," Panetta said during a press briefing at the Lovell center Monday. "Implementing this new system in this way would help us make sure we are doing it right and that we have time to adjust based on the experience in the field."

Shinseki said at VA and DoD the joint electronic health record must meet the needs of the servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and future military personnel and veterans.

"Secretary Panetta and I have committed to a single, common, joint integrated electronic health record," Shinseki said. "Each of those words mean something. One that is open in architecture and non-proprietary in design, to expand information sharing, eliminate gaps between our two robust healthcare systems. This is key to seamlessness, critical to enhancing quality of health care and essential to controlling costs."

Shinseki said while the deadline is 2017, the goal is to bring jointness and integration as soon as possible.

DoD and VA already have made significant progress after decades of falling short.

The departments report over the last three years they were sharing healthcare information of 1.1 million service members and veterans.

DoD and VA are able to share tens of millions more laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and allergy information records than ever before.

The agencies launched the Blue Button, which lets veterans and service members download their personal health records and share with non-DoD/VA doctors more easily.

VA announced earlier this year it would store its electronic health record data in data centers run by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Among the other signs of progress, DoD and VA selected a single sign-on and context management system to let user easily go between clinical applications. Currently, it's deployed at Lovell, but DoD and VA plan to expand the use of the technology later this year.

VA is leading the effort to create an open source electronic health record agent to make it easier for healthcare providers to integrate their software with the EHR.

And finally, DoD and VA deployed a graphical user interface (GUI) in Chicago and Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii that displays both departments' information on one screen.

"This facility is helping us chart the course for the future. For the future delivery of federal health care," Panetta said of the Lovell center EHR pilot. "This is really a very unique effort that hopefully will take us in to the future. It's bringing out two departments closer and it's helping us provide better, patient-center care and services."

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report brought to you by United Health Military and Veterans Services. For more defense news, click here.

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