Kaiser Permanente and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have announced the formation of a pilot program designed to exchange electronic health record (EHR) information using the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The pilot program connects Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect and the VA’s EHR system, VistA, two of the largest EHR systems in the country.
In late November 2009, the VA and Kaiser Permanente invited veterans in San Diego who received health care from both organizations to participate in the program. Veterans who responded favorably and asked to participate agreed to have their health care providers and physicians in both the public and private sectors share their health records electronically.
The pilot program began in mid-December 2009.
“This partnership demonstrates the power of a large-scale EHR that safely connects several care systems,” Andrew M. Wiesenthal, MD, an associate executive director of The Permanente Federation, stated in a news release. “Securely digitizing America’s health care information is only the first step in realizing the cost saving and improved quality of benefits possible with health care technology.”
Though the program seeks to greatly increase the flow of patient information through multiple EHR databases, official statements from both Kaiser Permanente and VA were quick to point out that no information is shared without the “explicit permission” of the patient.
The statements also pointed out that lack of willingness to participate in the program would in no way affect the veterans’ access to care.
Physicians of patients choosing to participate will have access to key health record information from other participating institutions.
The formation of an open, nationwide record for health care providers with multiple institutions is one step in the continuing effort to improve patient care through the creation of large, electronic databases.
eOfficials labeled the new program “exciting.”
“Utilizing the NHIN’s standards and network will allow organizations like the VA and the Department of Defense to partner with private sector health care providers to promote better, faster and safer care for veterans,” secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, said in a release.
In addition to Kaiser Permanente and the VA, the Department of Defense has been involved with the planning of the program. Officials stated the Department of Defense’s involvement will begin during the second phase of the pilot program, slated to begin in early 2010. — by Robert Press
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This article originally appeared in O&P Business News’ sister publication Orthopedics Today.