VA, Kaiser to exchange digital patient data

San Diego vets asked to volunteer data for information sharing project

The Veterans Affairs Department will begin exchanging patient medical records this month with Kaiser Permanente as part of a demonstration of large-scale health data exchange, agency officials announced.

The pilot program connects Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect and the VA's electronic health record system (EHR), known as VistA, two of the largest electronic health record systems in the country.

The VA is participating in a dialogue with industry on the possibility of making VistA available to the private sector

The VA-Kaiser Electronic Health Record system will exchange information using the federal government’s Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) and its set of security and interoperability protocols created by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).

The goal is to share VA patient data with private-sector health care providers, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a news release. The Defense Department will join in the demonstration in early 2010.

"Utilizing the NHIN's standards and network will allow organizations like VA and the Department of Defense to partner with private sector health care providers to promote better, faster and safer care for veterans,” Shinseki added.

The VA and Kaiser are asking veterans in the San Diego area to volunteer to participate in the data exchange program scheduled to begin in mid-December.

Through the economic stimulus law, the Obama administration is distributing $19 billion to hospitals and doctors who buy certified EHRs and use them to participate in health exchanges. HHS is preparing rulemaking on how vendors’ systems will be certified and on how to define the terms of participation and health exchange; some privacy and security issues are still under consideration.

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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