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DoD and VA expand capability to share health records

by Oracle Cerner and Travis Dalton

Published on 4/20/2020

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

As the world collectively continues its fight against COVID-19, Cerner has been on the front lines with our clients to support their heroic efforts. Along with our partners, Cerner continues its work to provide a single longitudinal health record for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Coast Guard.

On April 20, 2020, the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) program office announced VA and DoD have achieved a historic benchmark in their ongoing efforts to modernize health IT by going live with a new joint health information exchange (HIE) that enhances the ability to share records with community health care partners. Not only is this a critical step toward enhanced interoperability, but it will also support each department’s efforts to combat COVID-19 through simplified and streamlined data sharing when they need it most.

The joint HIE is monumental for DoD and VA, but also their respective community partners, as this expands the existing network of HIE partners. With this expansion, DoD and VA providers will have access to more complete health record data from all connected community partners or health systems. Participating external community partners can now securely access and retrieve consolidated records from both VA and DoD through the joint HIE, providing them a standardized and more holistic view of a patient’s health information while protecting patient data.

The availability of data allows providers to more effectively improve health outcomes, help reduce potential duplicate testing and combat some of the most pressing health care issues such as suicide, opioid abuse and toxic exposure. The joint HIE also helps relieve the burden on patients and caregivers who would otherwise be carrying paper records from community providers back to VA or DoD. The benefits of this health exchange are available to all VA and DoD care providers and participating community partners nationwide.

The future is bright. This is a giant step for health care innovation – enabling a seamless exchange of health data between the departments and an expanded network of community providers. This joint HIE is laying groundwork for DoD and VA to further expand interoperability, including connecting to the CommonWell Health Alliance, which would add another 15,000 community providers. This connection is expected to go live later this year.

For the better part of the last decade, Cerner has been tirelessly advocating for open data policies and developing a cognitive platform to support a more connected world through data automation and application program interfaces. Earlier this year, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services released rules that open the door to enhanced data sharing. Cerner firmly stands behind these rules and advancing nationwide interoperability. Delivering the right data, to the right place, at the right time to enable better health outcomes is something we can all get behind and work together to advance.

With millions of health care professionals on the front lines combatting COVID-19, the discussion for open, secure data sharing has never been more important. Since the start of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention engaged the health care community, seeking national surveillance capabilities to quickly measure and respond to the rapid progression of COVID-19. Cerner has been actively working with our clients and the federal government to securely share relevant data. But with disparate sources of data and antiquated systems, the government will continue to face challenges with ingesting and aggregating data at speed and scale.

Cerner believes it’s necessary to establish a national HIE at the federal level. It could help predict the next disease trend or outbreak and has the potential to help improve health outcomes for all patients, improve research efforts and help manage the response in the event of the next national emergency. We acknowledge there are challenges that must be overcome to achieve this, especially the need to protect patient privacy while ensuring a secure exchange of data. VA and DoD have established a foundation from which the federal government could build its HIE, and Cerner remains committed to supporting them in this effort.