Navy recruits first to enjoy lifetime electronic health care record

Merger of VA and Navy health facilities creates foundation for lifetime electronic health record

The health care records of new Navy recruits now will be virtually electronic for their entire career as an active duty and veteran member of the service.

That’s because all Navy recruits have their records loaded into systems at new James A. Lovell Health Care Center in Chicago, which recently merged together two separate Navy and Veterans Affairs hospital facilities.

While both departments are still working out the details on how to share information and modernize old records, for new recruits the movement of health data is virtually entirely electronic, said Col. Claude Hines Jr., program manager for the Defense Health Information Management System.

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Hines was part of a panel of civilian and uniformed experts who discussed the state of military health care IT on Aug. 9 at AFCEA’s Warfighter Support IT day in Vienna, Va.

The key to making the Lovell system work is a smooth hand-off of health records from the Defense Department to the VA when beneficiaries leave active duty. The new system operates by transferring data between
the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA), the military’s legacy electronic-health record system and the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), according to Hines.

The individual services are also working on their own initiatives such as the Army’s Medicine Map strategy, which focuses on detecting and treating behavioral health care, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,
AFCEA panelists said.

In addition, the Army is exploring a variety of telehealth capabilities that will allow patients to meet with doctors remotely, said Col. Hon Pak, CIO for Army Medical Command. Above all, the Army is looking for modularity and agility in new health IT systems. “(Telehealth) is going to change the model for the health care industry, “ Pak said.

“We are committed to better health care,” added Capt. Michael Weiner, director of the Military Health System’s Electronic Health Record Way Ahead Planning Office. Weiner is responsible for overseeing development and deployment of the next generation of the DOD’s electronic health record system.

As an aside to firms interested in contracting with the government, Weiner advised that software development teams working on military health care systems should include clinicians in their workgroups so that the developers have a better idea of how physicians prefer to access electronic health information.

While managing records in Garrison hospitals remains challenging, a bigger challenge facing the Military Health System is how best to provide medical facilities in theater. While providing point-of-service-care information is hard in the civilian world, it’s even harder on the battlefield, Pak said.

To meet these needs, the DOD is exploring video and multimedia-based capabilities that can allow medics in the field to access patient health record data. Theater systems present some of the most challenging work now underway, Weiner said, especially since the systems must operate in an austere, low-bandwidth environment, Weiner said.


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