Chairman Buyer applauds VA and DoD strides in sharing electronic medical data 

Washington, DC - Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) today showed committee staff long-sought progress in achieving a capability to fully share electronic patient records, an essential component of seamless transition for servicemembers entering the VA system. 

Among top priorities for Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) is the seamless transition of servicemembers from the defense health care system into VA.  That requires the capability for the two medical systems to share "bi-directional" and interoperable electronic health care records in real time.  With more than two decades elapsed since Congress ordered such interoperability, Chairman Buyer has placed heavy emphasis on stepping up the pace of what has been lethargic collaboration.  

"VA and DoD must be able to fully share health data for seamless transition to be meaningful," Chairman Buyer said.  "In the past six months, we have seen significant progress toward data sharing, and I commend VA and DoD for addressing the concerns of our many oversight hearings in the past six years." 

At the demonstration, held in the Washington VA Medical Center, Dr. Ross Fletcher, the hospital's chief of staff, showed how VA doctors can access a VA patient's records - including X-rays - from any hospital in the VA system.  A VA patient visiting from Des Moines, for example, can check in at the Washington VAMC and that patient's records are instantly available to Dr. Fletcher's staff. 

Dr. Fletcher then showed how VA doctors can access certain information on DoD patients.  The results showed that the two agencies are working together and finally making strides. 

Currently, the two systems can share data related to a patient's identity, medications, allergies, lab results, radiology images and pre- and post-deployment health assessments.  Carl Hendricks, chief information officer for DoD's military health system, said that by the end of 2006, VA and DoD would be able to share all pertinent data, largely fulfilling Chairman Buyer's goal and creating a benchmark for the private sector. 

"Care is information intensive; it must transcend environments," said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, VA's under secretary for health, discussing the rise in technology and importance of good information to clinicians who may be seeing a patient "migrating" from another health care system. "We are excited about the capability to share information that translates into better care for veterans and sets the standard for the nation," he said.