VA, DOD will share patient records

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments are on track to implement by Sept. 30 a single electronic health record that the two can use to exchange the medical information of patients who are active-duty members and veterans, the senior official directing the DOD-VA project said at an event March 26.

The two departments are incrementally building the health information technology project, but the electronic health record will have what clinicians need to treat patients by its deadline at the end of fiscal 2009, said Rear Adm. Gregory Timberlake, director of the DOD/VA Interagency Program Office, at an industry event sponsored by AFCEA-D.C.

A number of components have already been implemented as part of the two departments’ Bi-directional Health Information Exchange started several years ago, he said. The BHIE provides an interface between DOD’s AHLTA electronic record system and VA’s VistA EHR system, he said. For example, the two departments can exchange pharmacy and drug-allergy data on shared patients through a combined health data repository, he said.

“The future vision is for a virtual lifetime coherent electronic health record using a common services approach,” Timberlake said. Such a longitudinal record would include information assurance, privacy safeguards and rules-based access to protect sensitive health information, he added.

VA and DOD agreed earlier this week on the initial common services provided through a service-oriented architecture for the shared electronic health record, Timberlake said. Those services include single sign-on, identity management, the capability to access medical consults from either department and portability of records, he said. Implementing those services will require “well-defined data standards and architecture,” he stated.

A common services strategy would let the two departments incrementally add functionality to the electronic health record and adopt new business processes instead of “rip and replace” systems, he explained.

Over time, VA would extend the EHR to include other data that could be used to help determine and streamline the process for benefits to make it easier for veterans, said Paul Tibbits, VA’s deputy chief information officer for enterprise development.

DOD and VA are testing the integration of their health processes, physicians and records at VA’s North Chicago facility as the first Federal Health Care Center starting in October 2010, he said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.