VA and DOD expand health data exchange pilot

Pilot develops the next phase of the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record

 The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are expanding their health data exchange pilot project to hospitals in the southeastern corner of Virginia to take advantage of the high concentration of current and retired military service members in that area.

The VA and DOD on March 8 announced that the second phase of the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Communities Program will take place in the Hampton Roads and Tidewater areas of Virginia, according to a news release.

President Obama created the VLER program in April 2009 with the objective of creating a seamless lifetime electronic medical record for all service members that will cover them from active duty through retirement.

In November, the VA and Kaiser Permanente announced they were conducting a pilot program to exchange medical data for veterans in the San Diego region. The program has signed up about 450 veterans who volunteered to share their records.

In the coming months, the DOD is joining the VA-Kaiser program in San Diego and allowing its service members’ digital medical records to be shared there as well as part of VLER Health Communities. The veterans and service members sign permissions allowing their records to be shared. The Hampton Roads pilot will be an expansion of the VLER portion of the San Diego project..

The San Diego and Hampton Roads demonstration projects both utilize the Health and Human Service Department’s Nationwide Health Information Network to facilitate the secure exchange of the records. The network is a series of protocols and agreements that must be adhered to by all participants.

“Building upon VA’s successful pilot project with our San Diego VA Medical Center and private sector partners provides us with another opportunity to further develop this technology and share information with our DoD partners safely, securely, and efficiently,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in the news release.

However, the VA and DOD recently experienced a breakdown in their core health data exchange program that links their electronic health record systems. It was not immediately known if the breakdown affected the VA-Kaiser project or the Hampton Roads pilot project.

The Web portal that allows for VA access to DOD patient medical information was shut down on March 1 due to a series of errors and gaps in the DOD patient data visible to the VA. A VA official said on March 8 that the problem has been addressed and the fix is almost complete. The portal should be reopened soon, the spokeswoman said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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