Health Information Exchange Featured Article

August 01, 2012

Veterans to Be Connected Electronically to Doctors They Choose for Medical Records

No longer will veterans have to carry files of papers to their doctors’ offices. A new program is making that a thing of the past.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched a new partnership to use health information exchange technology to improve the quality of care and delivery of medical treatment to local veterans, especially those returning from recent conflicts.

Western New York has been named one of 13 communities in the U.S. chosen by VA to participate in the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Communities Program.

The VLER Health program allows the exchange of information between healthcare systems that are members of a secure Internet network, known as the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN), across the country. Through the VLER Health program, veterans can select parts of their medical records to be shared electronically, safely, and privately with other approved healthcare facilities where they have received treatment.

Participating physicians from VA, private practices and hospitals across Western New York will be able to get access to critical health information for their patients who are veterans through HEALTHeLINK, Western New York's clinical information exchange.

"The VLER program is aimed at creating a more convenient and comprehensive medical, personnel and benefits record for all veterans, in addition to creating a seamless transition from military to civilian life," said Brian G. Stiller, director of VA Western New York (WNY) Healthcare System, in the press release. "One of our priorities is to eliminate the need for our veteran patients to carry paper copies of their health records to private providers. The information will be accessible with a veteran's consent from military to VA to private-sector healthcare."

The program provides access to all laboratory, radiology and transcribed reports as well as medication history to healthcare teams and community providers through HEALTHeLINK's health information exchange, after veterans have signed a consent form for both VA and HEALTHeLINK to authorize their treating physicians to safely and securely access health information electronically.

Veterans can enroll in person at either the Buffalo or Batavia VA facility's Release of Information Office or Veterans Service Center. Forms can also be found online. HEALTHeLINK is coordinating its activities on this initiative with the NwHIN through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"HEALTHeLINK's participation in the VLER program is another example of how collaboration among healthcare organizations on health information technology initiatives is transforming patient care in Western New York," said Daniel E. Porreca, executive director of HEALTHeLINK. "This partnership allows medical information to be exchanged among treating physicians, whether at a VA facility, a hospital emergency room or at a primary care or specialist doctor's office, enabling more informed decisions and improved patient outcomes for our local Veterans."

HEALTHeLINK is part of the Western New York Beacon Community, one of 17 selected Beacon Communities across the country, part of a larger movement to modernize healthcare, according to the press release.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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