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VA and Kaiser invite veterans to participate in digital health record program

Posted: November 25, 2009 11:22 a.m.
Updated: November 27, 2009 5:00 p.m.
 
WASHINGTON -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Kaiser Permanente today announced an exciting program designed to improve care and services to our Nation's heroes.

VA and Kaiser Permanente are launching a pilot program to exchange electronic health record (EHR) information using the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) created by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The ability to share critical health information is essential to interoperability," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said.

"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."

This week, VA and Kaiser Permanente will send a joint letter to Veterans in the San Diego area who receive care from both institutions, to invite Veterans to participate in this first-ever pilot program.

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.

This initial pilot is planned to begin in mid-December 2009.

"This partnership demonstrates the power of a large-scale EHR that safely connects several care systems. Securely digitizing American's health care information is only the first step in realizing the cost saving and improved quality benefits possible with health care technology," said Andrew M. Wiesenthal, MD, associate executive director of The Permanente Federation.

"The reality is that most people receive care from multiple providers. 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. Exchange of current health record data at the point of treatment also improves quality, allowing medical decisions to be made quickly, with the relevant background."

The pilot program connects Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect and the VA's electronic health record system, VistA, two of the largest electronic health record systems in the country.

The program puts the highest priority on patient privacy and data security, and no exchange of information will occur without the explicit permission of the individual patient.

Explicit policies and technologies to safeguard patient information are part of the NHIN. Patient information will not be shared without first obtaining their consent.

Veterans' access to care will in no way be affected at either institution if they choose not to participate. Patients who do choose to participate will benefit by allowing their doctors at any one of the institutions to obtain key health record information from other participating institutions.

VA, DoD, and HHS have been working closely to create a system that will modernize the way health care is delivered and benefits are administered.

DoD will be included in the next phase of the pilot program in early 2010.

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