The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced plans for the joint acquisition and use of a new common in-patient electronic health record system. The two departments now have separate systems that require upgrade.
Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said, “I am very excited by the prospect of adopting a common, mutually beneficial solution to our in-patient health documentation needs. This collaboration is a further extension of the highly successful partnership we have established with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and is another example of the commitment our departments have made to work hand in hand to provide continuity of care for our beneficiaries.”
Both VA and DoD have been independently working on the enhancement and improvement of their respective inpatient electronic health record tools. AHLTA, DoD’s electronic health record (EHR) is implemented worldwide and currently supports the documentation and management of outpatient healthcare for nearly 9 million beneficiaries. Management of inpatient care is a future capability planned for AHLTA. The VA is planning to modernize VistA, its electronic health record, including its inpatient module. Common need and the potential benefits led the two departments to discuss the feasibility of jointly implementing a common inpatient electronic health record.
Despite obvious differences in mission, such as DoD’s requirements to support its combat theaters, pediatric and obstetrical patients and VA’s requirements to support domiciliary care, both agencies believe that the similarities in clinical and business processes may make the adoption of a common inpatient EHR a viable option.
Jim Nicholson, secretary of veterans affairs, who announced plans for the joint venture at a meeting of the American Health Information Community, called the agreement “groundbreaking” and said “it has the potential to further transform the way we care for our nation’s veterans and active duty service members.”
DoD and VA have made tremendous progress in their ability to share electronic health information as they move toward achieving interoperable electronic health records. Millions of records and data messages are already regularly transferred electronically between the two organizations. The success of their efforts has placed them at the forefront of the national effort to share health information.
Adopting a joint electronic solution for the documentation of in-patient health information will facilitate the seamless transition of active duty service members to veteran status. It will also make the inpatient healthcare data on shared beneficiaries immediately accessible to both DoD and VA healthcare providers. An added benefit of adopting a common tool is the potential for both agencies to realize significant cost savings through a joint development or acquisition effort.
Both agencies have agreed to conduct a study to examine their respective clinical processes and requirements and assess the benefits and the impacts on each department’s timelines and costs prior to a final decision on a joint acquisition strategy for an inpatient EHR.