Secretary Panetta of the Department of Defense and Secretary Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs met on February 5, 2013, their 9th meeting in the last 18 months. They again discussed their commitment to have both departments’ partner in an integrated electronic health record system.
Instead of merely expressing their mutual desire to create a shared electronic health record system, Secretary Shinseki confirmed the following:
“Today’s meeting was about how to get there and, in the short term, we’ve agreed to improve data interoperability to that integrated electronic health record before the end of this year, by standardizing health care data no later than December 2013, creating health data authoritative source no later than September of 2013, accelerating the exchange of real-time data between V.A. and DOD no later than December of 2013, and allowing V.A. and DOD patients to download their medical records, what we call our Blue Button Initiative, no later than May of 2013, and, finally, upgrading the graphical user interface, this thing we call the GUI, to display the new standardized V.A. and DOD health care data no later than December of 2013, all of this focused on an initial operating capability in 2014.”
Whether the target dates will be met is unknown, but the fact that they are taking increased steps toward the creation of a seamless, single integrated electronic health record should be applauded. Bringing together two large bureaucracies on such a large task is monumental. Both Secretary Panetta and Shinseki should be commended for their efforts, and service members and veterans should look forward to the day where medical professionals will have access to all of the patients’ medical records. This will in turn, hopefully, lead to better continued medical care and quicker access to important records.
Additionally, an integrated electronic health record system will also assist with the processing of veterans benefits claims. Often, the adjudication of claims is slowed because VA needs to search for the service medical records. However, once the shared electronic system is up and running, VA will have access to all of the service medical records at the beginning of the claims process.