New VA/DOD health records system makes transition and care easier for veterans

Posted at 8:19 PM, Aug 07, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-07 20:19:29-04

Life after the military is hard enough, but as many separating veterans know too well, the daunting task of getting their hard-earned health care is even tougher.

“For someone who is processing out and entering the VA system, it’s a huge burden for them to coordinate their health care and remember everything that’s ever transpired with their doctors,” said Dr. Katherine Gianola, who works for the VA’s Office of Informatics and Analytics.

Gianola says electronic health records have been used for years by Department of Defense and VA hospitals, but the two systems were always separate, making it impossible for information to flow freely during a service member's transition out of the military.

An example is the terminal medical examination done for all those leaving active duty - DOD keeps great record of the exam, but when veterans get to the VA hospital...

“We can't see those final exams, those wonderful holistic determinations of eligibility, benefits and a comprehensive history and physical. We can't see that information so VA doctors start from scratch,” said Gianola.

A huge waste, according to members of Congress pushing for one single system, so after ten years of planning, the Integrated Electronic Health Records, or iEHR, system will now be created.

One of the two test sites will be right here in Hampton Roads.

“From the time they enlist and become and active duty member with DOD, all the way through to their veterans benefits and veterans care would be one record,” said Gianola. “ Now we won’t have to redo tests, redo lab work, and doctors can make diagnosis more quickly.”

Gianola says this more efficient health records program will also cut down wait times for enrollment and disability claims, something veterans have demanded.

“The driving factor behind all of this is to provide the best healthcare for those that have served their country,” said Gianola.

Veterans in Hampton Roads will start seeing this program in action starting in 2014, with new features being added every few months, until 2017 when program goes nationwide.