Panetta, Shinseki announce iEHR milestones
With the nation’s first federal health care center as a backdrop, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joined Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to announce milestones in the fielding of an electronic health care record that will follow military recruits from the day they enlist until the day they are buried with Veterans’ honors.
In a joint news conference May 21 at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Panetta and Shinseki outlined the next steps in the initiative – introduced by President Obama in 2009 – to share service members’ health data between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“Our men and women in uniform serve this country by putting their lives on the line every day,” Panetta said. “That’s what they do; that’s why we’re proud of them, because they’re willing to do that. Our duty is to make sure that we protect them by giving them the best healthcare we can.”
The Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) features an Integrated Electronic Health Record ( iEHR), which is a single, jointly created common health record for all DoD and VA medical facilities that, when completed, will be the nation’s single largest health record system.
The VLER initiative, aiming to eliminate gaps and expand information sharing between the two systems used by the VA and DoD, is being pioneered at Lovell FHCC. Officially established in October of 2010, Lovell FHCC partners the VA and DoD to integrate all medical care into one facility to treat Veterans and active duty military personnel and their families.
“This center is the first of a kind, a partnership between our two departments,” Panetta said.
“This really is a unique demonstration of effort to try to bring together the DOD and VA systems. It brings all medical care together into a fully-integrated facility that serves recruits, service members, military dependents, retirees and Veterans. This facility is helping us chart the course for the future.”
In 2014, initial capabilities of iEHR will be rolled out at two test sites: San Antonio, Texas and Hampton Roads, Va., where DOD and VA provide medical care to thousands of service members and Veterans. Panetta and Shinseki also reaffirmed 2017 as a target date for iEHR to replace DOD’s and VA’s separate legacy electronic health records systems.
“When the last combatant comes home from Afghanistan, VA’s requirements to care for those who have borne the battle will continue to grow for a decade or more after the end of the mission,” Shinseki said. “We have the responsibility and the opportunity now to anticipate the needs of returning veterans and to guarantee them a seamless transition from service member to veteran status. This is key, this seamlessness.”
Lovell FHCC was named in honor of Apollo 13 astronaut, Illinois resident and retired Navy Cpt. James A. Lovell, who was present at the press conference. Lovell FHCC incorporates facilities and services from the former North Chicago VA Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes, and was established over three phases beginning in 2002.
Six sections of federal law were created and incorporated within the National Defense Authorization Act to authorize the change, which culminated with a $130 million, 209,000-square-foot addition to the former VA hospital, completed in 2009.