VA, DoD now can share more sensitive medical records

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is loosening a rule that unduly restricts it from sharing information about certain sensitive medical conditions with the Department of Defense (DoD), according to an announcement made by the VA last week.  

The interim final rule, published in the Federal Register Oct. 20, now will allow the sharing of medical records regarding veterans who need treatment for drug abuse, alcoholism and alcohol abuse, as well as HIV and sickle cell anemia. The rule removes a restriction that created inconsistencies in patients' medical records from one agency to another. The restriction rendered many records incomplete, and hindered the full development and implementation of an electronic health record system between the VA and the DoD, the VA noted in the rule.

"We have discovered that, particularly in this age of electronic health records, this regulatory restriction created an impediment to maximizing this exchange of information," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in an announcement.

The change is expected to improve the care and treatment of veterans, particularly those whose records are transferred electronically between the VA and the DoD. For instance, electronic allergy alerts now can be applied to all medications, and duplicate medical procedures can be avoided.

The update also dovetails with the VA's expansion of medical record sharing with the DoD to provide a unified medical record and continuity of care for veterans throughout their lives, such as the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program (VLER). 

The rule was effective as of Oct. 20, and the VA is accepting comments through Dec. 19.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the interim final rule
- check out this Healthcare IT News article