Kaiser Permanente, UPMC among 13 major health systems to sign interoperability pact with VA

Thirteen major health systems have signed on to a pledge agreeing to work toward sharing patient care data with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a bid to improve veterans’ cross-organization care, the government announced Thursday.

In addition to better identifying veterans whenever they go to community providers for their care, the collaboration aims to connect those patients with VA and community services—especially those that reduce out-of-pocket expenses—and to better coordinate care between VA and non-VA facilities, according to the so-called Veteran Interoperability Pledge.

Kaiser Permanente, UPMC, Intermountain Health, Mass General Brigham and several others have agreed to the pact, which the VA encourages other systems to join as well.

They will be collaborating with the department to build out the infrastructure necessary to “seamlessly” and “securely” exchange information between their and the VA’s information systems, and, upon doing so, agreed to support those capabilities for patients.

“With commitments to transfer vital information and records electronically between VA and signatory health systems, we also hope that this pledge will make it seamless for our partner health systems to identify veterans at the point of care,” VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D., said in a statement.

“That is inherently valuable for the veteran receiving care, but it will also allow us to send helpful information to our partner health systems that they can then offer to Veterans in their care—to include information about new benefits we are offering under the [Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT)] Act and other resources that assist with suicide prevention and identifying social risk factors," he said.

Informing non-VA providers of the benefits available under VA policies, such as no-cost care for a veteran experiencing an acute suicidal crisis, could translate to lower financial burdens for veterans, the department noted in its announcement. It could allow an additional opportunity for a clinician to encourage a patient to file for the benefits during the course of care.

To meet the pledge’s goals, the 13 systems agreed to five technical requirements:

  • Enabling health system application access to authoritative VA resources to determine veteran status
  • Enabling automation of benefit eligibility determination and referrals
  • Enabling health system application access to identify local, state and federal health resources
  • Enabling VA application access to health system clinical and administrative data for quality assessment and care coordination
  • Advancing and implementing federally recognized, national interoperability standards, privacy and security frameworks related to executing the pledge’s commitments on information exchange and use of health information.

The initial 13 signatory health systems are Atrium Health, Emory Healthcare, Inova, Intermountain Health, Jefferson Health, Kaiser Permanente, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Mass General Brigham, Rush Health, Sanford Health, Tufts Medicine, UC Davis Health and UPMC.