US agencies to develop electronic health records system

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have agreed to jointly develop an electronic health records system that will allow physicians to share the medical records of veterans and active military personnel.

The two departments said that a joint system will make medical records instantly accessible to physicians, allowing them and other health care professionals to make faster and better treatment decisions. Both departments have already moved to improve their electronic health records systems, according to the statement.

"Our two departments understand that we are responsible for the same people, only at different times in their lives," VA Deputy Secretary Gordon H. Mansfield said Tuesday in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. "Our greatest challenge, and our greatest opportunity, is to build systems that meet the needs of veterans and DOD beneficiaries for today and tomorrow. We will continue to persevere toward that goal."

Mansfield said the VA and DOD information sharing successes resulted from the implementation of a DOD/VA Joint Electronic Health Records Interoperability (JEHRI) Plan. The JEHRI is a comprehensive strategy to develop collaborative technologies and interoperable data repositories as well as the use of common data standards.

He said the agencies began implementing the JEHRI Plan in 2002 with the implementation of the Federal Health Information Exchange (FHIE). Since then, that information exchange has supported the secure one-way transmission of DOD electronic medical records to a shared repository, where records reside for review by clinicians treating veterans at VA hospitals and clinics, Mansfield said.

The next phase of JEHRI, the Clinical Health Data Repository, will allow the VA and DOD to develop an interface between their individual electronic health records systems, he said.