VA, DoD discuss steps toward iEHR, VLER

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When Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki met at the Pentagon earlier this week, EHRs was one of the topics on the table.

The meeting on Monday was one in a series the two secretaries have held on issues of common interest to both Departments.

“The vision Secretary Panetta and I share is to provide an integrated, seamless experience to our people across their lifetimes – from when they raise their hands to take the oath, to when they leave active service and join the Veteran ranks, to when they are laid to rest with final honors,” Secretary Shinseki said. “Over the past three years, VA and DoD have made significant progress, but more work remains.”

The lifetime record to which Secretary Shinseki referred is knows as VLER, as in the virtual lifetime electronic record, while iEHR is the EHR the deparments are jointly developing to integrate the DoD’s ALTHA with the VA’s VistA systems.

At the meeting Feb. 27, Panetta and Shinseki focused on five areas where the two departments have joined efforts: the disability evaluation system, electronic health records, transition programs, joint pharmacy initiatives, and recovery coordination for the wounded, ill, and injured.

Panetta and Shinseki discussed steps forward on electronic health records, noting that the Interagency Program Office established by the two departments to provide leadership in building the joint integrated electronic health records system now has new leadership.

The secretaries were also updated on development of the graphical user interface program, reporting that doctors at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center at North Chicago can now view both VA and DoD patient records simultaneously on a single monitor.

The Lovell Center is a first-of-its-kind partnership between VA and DoD to provide integrated care to service members and veterans in the same facility and has been a testing ground for the departments’ efforts to deliver a fully integrated electronic health record for all service members and veterans.

Panetta and Shinseki are expected to meet again this May in Chicago to visit the Lovell Center and to review progress on deliverables the two departments have committed to achieve by the end of the year, including: a detailed implementation plan for the revised transition assistance program; spurring development of electronic transfer of patient files, to reduce both the processing and mailing costs incurred by paper transfer and disability evaluation processing times; and finalizing a contract for joint pharmacy capability at the Lovell Center

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