The Obama administration announced this week that the Departments of Defense(DOD) and Veterans Affairs(VA) will finally create a path to integrate the flow of patients’ information between DOD’s AHLTA and the VA’s VistA EHR platforms. Each of the disparate systems in and of themselves represents a successful implementation of EHRs, however until now there has been little or no ability to transfer patient data between the two systems.   

In a quote given to the Washington Post, President Obama said, “Currently, there is no comprehensive system in place that allows for a streamlined transition of health records between DOD and the VA.” He added the goal of the combined system will be to “contain [veterans’] administrative and medical information from the day they first enlist to the day that they are laid to rest”.  Just how the administration plans on achieving this goal has yet to be determined, yet officials of the two organizations and many members of Congress, see such integration as long overdue.

Currently the two organizations which provide health services to our veterans use two different systems, which has lead to tremendous backlogs in claims at the Veterans Administration.  The merged “EMR Makeover”, which the White House has termed the Joint Virtual Lifetime Record, will be part of the DOD’s 47 billion 2010 budget, and the 25 billion dollars in increases in the VA’s budget over the next 5 years.

A spokesperson for the Pentagon said, “This new approach incorporates a transition strategy by maintaining a seamless access to all clinically relevant data from both systems, while concurrently building ‘common services’ between the two”

In remarks broadcast on CNN, President Obama related what many believe is the future of Health Records for all Americans, and not just members of our Armed Forces; “[a veteran] will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local VA health center. Their electronic records will transition with them.”

While skeptics take a “wait and see” approach, administration officials believe that once accomplished, the Joint Virtual Lifetime Record could serve as a model for a national EHR system.