VA, DOD to develop e-health record system

Joint inpatient electronic health record will let doctors share medical data seamlessly

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments will collaborate to develop a joint inpatient electronic health record system for hospitalized active duty military personnel and veterans. The system will let physicians share medical data seamlessly, VA secretary Jim Nicholson said today. VA and DOD currently can exchange only certain data

Initially, VA and DOD will examine their clinical and business processes to lay the groundwork for development of the inpatient electronic health record. Once the departments complete a feasibility study of their requirements, they will announce how they plan to proceed, said William Winkenwerder Jr., DOD assistant secretary for health affairs.

When implemented, the joint record system will be an example for other large health care providers.

'We will, in effect, become the model for other large providers to emulate. [The system] will be able to be synthesized for use in other health systems,' Nicholson said in announcing the project at a meeting of the American Health Information Community, led by Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt.

The integration of the two departments' systems, committed to migrate to AHIC interoperability standards, constitutes an important step forward for a health care system based on value and putting the patient at the center, Leavitt said.

VA and DOD intended the announcement to be a surprise, Winkenwerder added. 'DOD and VA have come to a fork in the road, and we've taken it. After years of holding hands, we decided to get married,' he said.

VA has been planning to modernize the platform for its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture program (VistA) electronic health record. DOD has updated its outpatient electronic health record, the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) and has early efforts toward an inpatient record, according to Winkenwerder.

'Our vision is an end-to-end inpatient system, particularly for the seriously wounded, that will be the same system that carries information back to VA,' he said.

A recent study by Harvard Medical School concluded that federal hospitals provide the best care available anywhere for some of the most common life-threatening illnesses.

VA and DOD operate a large percentage of federal hospitals.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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