VA, DOD share clinical data on a large scale

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have finally figured out how to make interoperability a success

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have finally figured out how to make interoperability a success. They are exchanging health data on millions of patients, and the pace of cooperation is accelerating.

In December 2005, VA health providers began accessing health assessments DOD performed before and after deploying

active-duty personnel. In March, DOD began delivering information on about 250,000 Reserve and National Guard members who were deployed then demobilized.

The Federal Health Information Exchange and the Bidirectional Health Information Exchange are the vehicles for sharing data among seven DOD sites and every VA hospital and clinic. Another 10 DOD sites, including medical centers, will be added this fiscal year.

In the future, interfaces will link the central clinical data repositories the departments are building. As a start, they are exchanging drug interaction and drug allergy data.

Chief information officers from both departments are scheduled to explain the plan to the House Appropriations Committee’s Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee March 29.

Congress has pressured the two departments to share patient information to improve continuity of care and reduce data entry.

The data exchanges come as the departments are upgrading their clinical information systems, which are already some of the most advanced systems of their size and scope. Exchanges are made possible by Federal Health Architecture standards, said Robert McFarland, the VA’s assistant secretary for information and technology. McFarland announced last week that he will be stepping down from that post.

“The exchange of…pharmacy, allergy and laboratory data between two separate systems has never been done on the scale that VA and DOD are working to accomplish,” McFarland said in prepared testimony.


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