DoD and VA should complete iEHR 'as soon as possible,' says IOM task force
The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments should complete work on an integrated electronic health record as soon as possible, says a report from an Institute of Medicine task force. The departments recently called off a joint development program that was to have resulted in the core infrastructure of a single system known as the iEHR, in favor of separate health record systems with interoperable pieces.
The lack of seamless health records across the departments is just one of several system-wide challenges facing a many veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical- and mental-health problems, according to the report.
The committee says care and services can be better coordinated with the help of an "interoperable or single combined electronic health record for all care that begins with entry into military service and continues throughout care in the Department of Veterans Affairs system after transition."
The departments are also missing research opportunities that stem from data sharing, according to the IOM task force. The committee identified a wide array of data and databases at VA, DoD and other agencies that could inform care. With the help of data owners and privacy experts, the departments should link and integrate their databases so that they can be analyzed to study readjustment.
The IOM task force also recommends the secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs stand up an interagency work group to assess the viability of linking data and encouraging agencies to set common goals, policies and procedures, as well as establish mechanisms for sharing and records systems--all of which comply with legal requirements.
The committee said gaining access to existing data files is difficult and the departments should set clear procedures for data retrieval. The procedures should be posted to department websites with related data dictionaries, says the task force.
"All agencies that collect, store, and manage information relevant to veterans and their families should give high priority to coordination of those efforts throughout the federal statistical system so that informed decisions about veterans' readjustment needs can be made in the near future," say report authors.