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WASHINGTON - The secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs announced their departments will speed implementation of the Integrated Electronic Health Record program, allowing service members and veterans better access and more importantly, better medical care.
"This approach is affordable, achievable, and if we refocus our efforts we believe we can achieve the key goal of a seamless system for health records between VA and DOD on a greatly accelerated schedule," said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta following a meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki at VA headquarters here.
The departments are able to step up the records program because of advances in information technology while working with existing platforms. The original goal was to have the system deployed by 2018. Now the expectation is by the end of next year.
The goal is to provide one set of electronic records from entry into the military through veteran status. The program is designed to allow service members or veterans to download information and present it to doctors or other health care providers without delays.
Previously, service members had to hand carry paper files from DOD facilities to Veterans Affairs.
Once complete, the record program will provide DOD and VA clinicians with the complete medical records of more than 18 million service members, veterans and their beneficiaries.
"We’ve agreed to improve interoperability before the end of this year by standardizing health care data," Shinseki said. The two departments will also accelerate the exchange of real-time data by September.
The departments are upgrading the graphical user interface to display the new standardized VA and DOD healthcare date by the end of this year, Shinseki said.
"By this summer, DOD and VA will field and begin conducting a pilot program on the common interface for doctors at seven joint rehab centers across the country and we’ll also expand its use at two other sites," Panetta said. "All of these facilities will be interoperable by the end of July 2013, so fast time track, but we think we can get it done."
These centers will be in San Antonio, Minneapolis, Palo Alto, Calif., Tampa, Fla., Richmond, Va., Anchorage, Alaska, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
"Rather than building a single, integrated system from scratch, we will focus our immediate efforts on integrating VA and DOD health data as quickly as possible by upgrading our existing systems," Panetta said.