DOD, VA shift medical record strategy

doctor and laptop

The days when doctors at DOD or VA can access electronic patient records seamlessly across the departments are still in the future, but a new set of short-term goals are intended to move closer to that goal. (Stock image)

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments , after several years of working toward a single, integrated electronic health record program, are changing their approach in the short term, the secretaries of both agencies said in a joint press conference Feb. 5.

Under the new plans, the agencies will work to establish improved data interoperability, using resources on hand, by the end of the year, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.

Among the goals:

  •  Enable access to the Blue Button initiative, which allows patients to download their medical records, by May;
  •  Create a "health data authoritative source" by September;
  •  Achieve standardized health care data by December;
  •  Accelerate exchange of DOD and VA data in real time by December.

The move is expected to save the departments an unspecified amount of money. According to Federal Times, DOD Deputy Chief Management Officer Elizabeth McGrath estimated the savings to be in the hundreds of millions.

"We asked the managers of the joint program to take a step back, take a step back and assess whether we could achieve the president's directive much sooner and for much less money than had been budgeted," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, adding that "advantages in technology" are allowing them to do so.

"Rather than building a single integrated system from scratch, we will focus our immediate efforts on integrating VA and DOD health data as quickly as possible, by focusing on interoperability and using existing solutions," he said.

Panetta said he and Shinseki have directed their departments to begin work on the refocused efforts, and a pilot program will launch this summer using a common interface across seven joint rehab centers.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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