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VA Launches Health Information Exchange Pilot

Veterans Affairs teams up with health IT group to reduce time needed to access medical records.

As the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to build its health information technology infrastructure to serve the veteran population, the department said it will start a pilot project in the Richmond region to improve the delivery of veterans' health information.

The pilot, announced last week, involves the Richmond VA Medical Center and MedVirginia (MedVA), a healthcare IT group serving central Virginia that was formed in 2000 by a consortium of Virginia health care providers. Both organizations will partner to create a comprehensive health information network for exchanging health information by using the VA's Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health program.

VLER shares select parts of a Veterans' medical record electronically, safely, and privately with other approved healthcare facilities that are members of the Nationwide Health Information Network. The VLER Health program has pioneered the exchange of information between different healthcare systems.

VA selected the Richmond area because it has a high concentration of veterans, military retirees, and members of the Guard and Reserve present in the region. The Richmond VA Medical Center serves an estimated 200,000 veterans coming from 52 cities and counties.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, said in a statement that, "This pilot is one more step taken to deliver a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record for our Nation's veterans and service members."

MedVirginia, the Richmond-based group, has long focused on initiatives to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care through IT innovations, including the 2006 launch of MedVirginia Solution, a community-based health information exchange. The Richmond pilot builds on the success of the VLER program pilots in San Diego and Hampton Roads/Tidewater, Va. Participants will exchange information using the Nationwide Health Information Network.

The VA said veterans in the Richmond area will be invited to participate in this health data exchange program, which went live on March 11. Veterans who choose to participate will authorize their public and private sector health care providers and doctors to share specific health information electronically. No exchange of information will occur without permission from individual patients.

The VA has made several recent announcements that it is moving forward with a comprehensive health information technology strategy. Earlier this month, theVA released a draft request for proposals to develop an electronic health record system based on open source technology.

Last November, the department said it will work with a private contractor to speed claims decisions and significantly reduce the average time needed to obtain medical records from private physicians.

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