VA to start record exchange focusing on rural areas

In July, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will begin a new initiative to exchange veterans' health records between one of its medical centers and private healthcare providers in rural southeastern Utah.

This will be the first of 11 planned demonstrations of the VA's virtual lifetime electronic record (VLER) that focuses on coordinating care in a rural regions. Through the VLER project, VA is looking to track administrative, benefits and health records for service members starting from their induction through their lives as veterans.

"Change usually comes from the coasts and then spreads to the middle of the country. But the veterans most likely to benefit from interoperability were those in remote and rural areas. I didn't want them to wait another three years to have this technology," said Tim Cromwell, MD, director of standards and interoperability for the Veterans Health Administration, who has led the effort to focus on rural veterans.

The new pilot will be operated out of the Grand Junction (Colo.) VA Medical Center and the Moab (Utah) Regional Hospital. Cromwell said results from the pilot will help VA better care for veterans who go to both VA hospitals and private facilities.

Overall, it is expected to provide faster service and enable medical facilities to securely share information. "We have a group to measure the tangible outcomes," Cromwell said in a statement. "Everyone thinks that with interoperability you'll have better care and lower costs. For example, instead of ordering a CAT scan a doctor can look at the one a Veteran had at the VA a month before."

For more details:
- see the VA release
- view the Government Health IT article