Congress is stepping in to spur integration of electronic health record data from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recently introducing legislation to establish strict timelines for seamless patient data sharing.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced The Servicemembers' Electronic Health Record Act of 2013 (S. 1296) to amend the Wounded Warrior's Act to establish specific deadlines for the two agencies to achieve integrated EHRs. Among other things, the bill would require the agencies to agree on and create standardized forms for data capture within 180 days of enactment. They would have one year to attain seamless integration and sharing of information and data downloading using the Blue Button Initiative.
The bill also would require the agencies to consider storage of patient data in the cloud.
A related bill, The 21st Century Health Care for Heroes Act (H. 2590), has been introduced in the House by Rep. Christopher Gibson (R-N.Y.). The language of that bill is similar, but not identical to the Senate bill.
The Senate bill has been referred to the Committee of Veteran's Affairs. The House bill, which now has 44 co-sponsors, has been referred to the House Armed Services and Veteran's Affairs Committees.
The development of an integrated DoD-VA EHR has been beset with problems for years. The idea of creating a joint EHR was nixed in February, a decision that was met with considerable criticism. An amendment to the House National Defense Authorization Act, passed last month, would increase oversight of the iEHR process.