DoD, VA Announce Plans for Joint Inpatient Record System

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2007 - The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have announced plans for a common inpatient electronic health-record system.

The two departments now have separate systems that require upgrade, officials said.

"I am very excited by the prospect of adopting a common, mutually beneficial solution to our in-patient health documentation needs," Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said. "This collaboration is a further extension of the highly successful partnership we have established with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and is another example of the commitment our departments have made to work hand in hand to provide continuity of care for our beneficiaries."

Both VA and DoD have been independently working on the enhancement and improvement of their respective inpatient electronic health record tools, officials said. AHLTA, DoD's electronic health-record system, is implemented worldwide and supports the documentation and management of outpatient health care for nearly 9 million beneficiaries. Management of inpatient care is a future capability planned for AHLTA.

VA is planning to modernize VistA, its electronic health-record system, including its inpatient module. Common need and the potential benefits led the two departments to discuss the feasibility of jointly implementing a common inpatient electronic health record, officials explained.

Despite obvious differences in mission, such as DoD's requirements to support its combat theaters, pediatric and obstetrical patients and VA's requirements to support domiciliary care, officials said, both agencies believe the similarities in clinical and business processes may make the adoption of a common inpatient electronic health record a viable option.

VA Secretary R. James Nicholson, who announced plans for the joint venture at a meeting of the American Health Information Community, called the agreement "groundbreaking," and said "it has the potential to further transform the way we care for our nation's veterans and active duty servicemembers."

DoD and VA have made progress in their ability to share electronic health information as they move toward achieving interoperable electronic health records. Millions of records and data messages are regularly transferred electronically between the two organizations.

Adopting a joint electronic solution for the documentation of inpatient health information will facilitate the seamless transition of active duty servicemembers to veteran status, officials said. It also will make the inpatient health-care data on shared beneficiaries immediately accessible to both DoD and VA health-care providers.

An added benefit of adopting a common tool, officials noted, is the potential for both agencies to realize significant cost savings through a joint development or acquisition effort.

Both agencies have agreed to conduct a study to examine their respective clinical processes and requirements and assess the benefits and the effects on each department's timelines and costs before making a final decision on a joint acquisition strategy for an inpatient electronic health record.

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