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Press Releases: National

January 6, 2010

Veterans Affairs and Kaiser Permanente Share Electronic Health Information to Improve Care for Veterans

Safe and Convenient Exchange of Medical Data

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Kaiser Permanente recently launched a pilot medical data exchange program in San Diego using the Nationwide Health Information Network. This innovative pilot enables clinicians from VA and Kaiser Permanente to obtain a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health using electronic health record information, including information about health issues, medications, and allergies.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs and the entire administration are encouraged by the opportunities that electronic health record interoperability provides for veterans, service members and their dependents,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We are proud to join in this effort with Kaiser Permanente and to achieve the benefits of health data exchange, including improved quality, patient safety, and efficiency.”

Reform Roundtable Attendees
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Reporters Heather Chambers (San Diego Business Journal) and Graham Nixon (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) get a first-hand look at how health information is exchanged between the San Diego VA and Kaiser Permanente, part of the recently launched pilot medical data exchange program. The program will increase safety, quality and efficiency of sharing information for the veterans served by both health care providers.



Roundtable Attendees
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The Wednesday, January 6, press conference announced a milestone in health information technology and EHR interoperability.


In the larger version, from left to right: Steve Ondra, senior policy advisor for health affairs, office of the secretary at Department of Veterans Affairs; Robert Smith, MD, chief of staff of the VA San Diego Healthcare System; John Mattison, MD, chief medical information officer for Kaiser Permanente Southern California; Andy Wiesenthal, MD, associate executive director for The Permanente Federation; Peter Levin, PhD, senior advisor to the secretary and chief technology officer of Department of Veterans Affairs; and Tim Cromwell, PhD, RN, director of standards and interoperability for the chief health informatics office at Department of Veterans Affairs.

Led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NHIN provides a technology “gateway” to support interoperability standards and a legal framework for the secure exchange of health information between treating physicians, when authorized by a patient. Clinicians from the participating organizations can electronically, securely, and privately share authorized patient data, ensuring around-the-clock access to critical health information. This immediate electronic access supports increased accuracy, efficiency and safety. It also helps to avoid redundant care and testing.

The new pilot program connects VA’s VistA (Veterans Affairs Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture) and Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®. VA beneficiaries and Kaiser Permanente members in the San Diego area were the first to be offered the opportunity to sign up for the pilot, with the understanding that their information would not be shared without their consent. The program’s next phase will add authorized data from the U.S. Department of Defense’s health care system to this exchange in early 2010. Ultimately, this program is planned to be made available to all veterans and service members.

“Instant access to critical health data can greatly improve not only the care and service for individual patients, but also reduce redundancy and waste in health care, saving precious resources for care delivery,” said John Mattison, MD, assistant medical director and chief medical information officer, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Enhanced patient safety, efficiency, convenience and doctor-patient communication all can be facilitated by health care information technology, and we have developed a secure and private way to exchange the information caregivers need that we hope will become a model for interoperability in health care.”

Since more than half of America's veterans and active duty service members receive some portion of their health care outside of VA or DOD facilities, interoperability between federal agencies and the private sector is essential to provide the best care for veterans, service members, and their dependents.

With the new health data exchange capability, when a veteran visits a clinician, prior history data will be available instantly to help guide the best possible treatment in any location that participates in this program. Prior to this project, patients frequently consented to sharing this information; however, it regularly took weeks or even months to receive paper health care documents. Now, this information can be transmitted electronically, within seconds.

A national effort is underway to promote the use of EHRs. Similar to financial institutions securely and seamlessly sharing customer information from different locations and systems, EHRs from different systems can safely, securely and privately provide access to health data from multiple sites of care.

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
VA’s goal is to provide excellence in patient care, Veterans’ benefits and customer satisfaction. VA strives for high quality, prompt and seamless service to Veterans. VA’s employees continue to offer their dedication and commitment to help Veterans get the services they have earned. For more information, go to:

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: