Given how often the Department of Veterans Affairs plays the role of healthcare IT vanguard, it should come as no surprise that the department will be among the first to combine electronic health records (EHRs) with genetic data. As the VA has had an EHR system in place for years now, the department is the ideal candidate for testing this kind of advanced functionality. On a voluntary basis, veterans can have their genetic information added to their health record, where it will be linked with their medical history. The Department, which launched a pilot program late last year, hopes that linking genetic data to EHRs will help illuminate previously unknown linkages between genetic variations and environmental factors. While the program is completely voluntary, the use of genetic data in health records still raises all sorts of privacy and security questions, not to mention moral and ethical ones. The American Health Information Community, a group founded by President George W. Bush, has discussed the matter of patients' genetic information being used in health records, though they have yet to draft any firm policies on the matter.
For more on the VA's new program:
- see this eWeek article