Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

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VA/DOD center might offer lessons for health IT

In six months, the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments will open their first fully integrated integrated federal health center. It could offer some unique lessons for health record integration.

Unlike other sharing agreements that link VA and DOD medical facilities, the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago is one-of-a-kind because it was authorized by Congress to function as a single entity, said Jonathan Friedman, public affairs officer for the facility. “This has never been done before.”

The $370 million medical center is comprised of 53 buildings, including a new $130 million ambulatory care building under construction. It will serve veterans, active duty military and the service members’ families, including children.

The wide range of potential patients is one reason that Friedman, to help publicize the project, set up a Facebook fan page for the center in August 2009. The center’s Facebook page has about 130 fans and numerous postings of construction photographs.

Even so, many people have questions about the project, mostly due to its unusual nature. “People are trying to figure out who we are and what we are doing,” Friedman said. “We have a lot of information to get out.”

My question is: How fully integrated will the electronic health record systems be? It will be interesting to see if the North Chicago integration project has any lessons for the VA and DOD’s Interagency office working on interoperability of their record systems, and for the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record project that aims to create a single lifetime health record for each service member/veteran.

The combined center has been in planning and development since 2002. Under the fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required DOD and the VA to establish a joint incentive program to demonstrate opportunities to improve access and quality of care by sharing.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 specifically authorized the integration of the North Chicago VA Medical Center and the DOD’s Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes into a single medical health care system.

The final phase of the integration is the DOD’s construction of a $130 million new ambulatory care center adjacent to the North Chicago VA Medical Center.

On the Facebook page, which has about 126 fans, sponsors have posted dozens of photographs and four videos. The official sponsor of the medical center’s fan page is not listed.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Mar 30, 2010 at 12:14 PM


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