DOD to expand e-health record system functionality

The Defense Department is adding functionality to its new Web-based electronic health record system, even as it continues rolling it out to military facilities around the world.

The Tricare military health system should complete deployment of the outpatient version of its Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) by the end of the calendar year, said William Winkenwerder, assistant Defense secretary for health affairs.

At the same time, DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department are collaborating to develop an imaging module for submitting and retrieving X-rays, MRI and CT scans, he said. VA has an existing imaging module for its VistA electronic health record but wants a modernized version.

Some theater medical systems are already connecting with AHLTA's clinical data repository. And patients can access components of their medical record and provider through Tricare Online.

AHLTA replaces the Composite Health Care System. Among its improvements, the modernized version will provide standardized data definitions so data can be entered once and repeated, shared and moved.

'Interoperability and jointness [are] no longer activit[ies] we just encourage. Our challenge now is to learn what's working best in the field,' Winkenwerder told an audience today at 'Military Medicine: Transforming the Future,' Tricare's annual conference in Washington.

The Quadrennial Defense Review, DOD's plan for transformation through 2015 that will be released next week, will also contain recommendations for the medical system, including changing business processes.

Health care costs are skyrocketing for the military much as they are for the private sector. Some retirees have switched to Tricare from their private health care providers because of low beneficiary costs and quality of care, Winkenwerder said.

DOD's health care costs have doubled over the past five years to $38 billion this year, accounting for nearly 8 percent of DOD expenses. If current trends continue, the department will spend $64 billion in 2015, accounting for 12 percent of DOD's costs.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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