The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense launched an expanded health information exchange (HIE) that can share records with community health providers on Monday. A long-awaited step in the agencies’ EHR modernization project, participating clinics and hospitals outside of the two agencies’ networks now have a single point of entry to exchange patient health records.

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic underlines the importance for clinicians on the front lines to quickly access a patient’s health record, regardless of where that patient previously received care,” Dr. Neil Evans, interim director of the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization program office, said in a news release. “As the DOD and VA implement a single, common record, the joint health information exchange and the associated expansion of community exchange partners is a critical step forward, delivering immediate value to all DOD and VA sites.”

Cerner, which was awarded contracts to develop electronic health record systems for both agencies, said the joint health information exchange was “a monumental step forward.”

All VA and DoD providers and participating community partners will have access to the joint HIE. So far, 35,000 hospitals and clinics have access, as well as 11,000 other health facilities, such as pharmacies and nursing homes, according to FedScoop.

Later this year, the VA and DoD plan to expand the platform by connecting to CommonWell, a health IT trade group that facilitates the exchange of health data.  More than 15,000 community providers would be able to access the joint HIE through this partnership. Patients who opt out of sharing will not have their data exchanged through the HIE.

While timely with the ongoing health crisis, Cerner said Covid-19 did not affect the timing of when the joint HIE was implemented. Other aspects of the EHR modernization project have been put on pause as a result of the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the VA paused the rollout of the $16 billion project, which was originally expected to launch at the first pilot site in Spokane, Washington in July. The initial rollout was slated for February, but was delayed as some of the interfaces were not yet ready.

The Department of Defense has also paused its second wave of implementations for its new health record system.

Photo credit: ipopba, Getty Images



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