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VA Initiative Aims to Improve Veteran Health Care

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 – Officials with the nation’s two largest electronic medical records systems announced a pilot program today designed to further enhance health-care services for military veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Kaiser Permanente plan to exchange their records information using the Nationwide Health Information Network, which was developed by the Health and Human Services Department last year. The initiative is scheduled to begin next month, VA officials said.

The network allows government and several private health care providers to share integrated delivery networks, pharmacies, labs and patient information.

“The ability to share critical health information is essential to interoperability,” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a written statement issued today. “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.”

VA and Kaiser Permanente plan to invite veterans in San Diego this week who receive health care from both organizations to participate in the pilot program, VA officials said, noting that patients must formally consent to their information being shared among different organizations.

“Veterans who respond and ask to participate will enable their public- and private-sector health care providers and doctors to share specific health information electronically, safely, securely and privately,” the VA statement said.

The NHIN network also works to cut health care costs for patients and providers through reducing redundancy in medical services.

“Securely digitizing American's health-care information is only the first step in realizing the cost savings and improved quality benefits possible with health-care technology,” said Dr. Andrew M. Wiesenthal, associate executive director of The Permanente Federation, in the VA statement.

“The reality is that most people receive care from multiple providers,” Wiesenthal said. “Without the ability for caregivers and patients to have access to their data, all of the time, there is the possibility for wasted time and resources duplicating tests and procedures.”

The Defense Department will be included in the second phase of the pilot program early next year, officials said.

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Related Sites:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Health and Human Services Information Technology Initiative

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