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VA Demos Prototype for New Patient Record System

The Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Hospital

The Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Hospital // Jim Mone/AP File Photo

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By Mohana Ravindranath June 12, 2015

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is designing a new platform that can pull patient records from disparate hospital systems into one virtual place, potentially giving physicians a more complete look at a patient's history. 

The Enterprise Health Management Platform, or eHMP, is still in its early stages. Pilots in a few cities including Portland, Oregon and San Antonio, Texas, are scheduled to begin in July. But during a briefing with reporters Thursday, VA officials were eager to demonstrate progress on the prototype, though it's still buggy -- a pop-up information box lingers after the user moves the cursor away, for instance.

The current version of eHMP is read-only, meaning clinicians can use it to view patient records from VA, the Defense Department and community health partners through an electronic health information exchange. But it's an improvement on VA's current platform -- the Computerized Patient Record System -- because it lets clinicians search beyond files stored at their location, Neil Evans, ‎co-director of connected health at the Veterans Health Administration, said during the demonstration. Currently, a care provider must use a remote-viewing application to access records from other facilities.  

A more integrated system could help care providers see which drugs a patient has been prescribed and filled and in which location. This approach shows physicians a broader look at possible drug interactions among other risks, said David Waltman, VA's senior adviser to the undersecretary for health.

VA plans to give all VA facilities access to eHMP by 2017, and to phase out CPRS by 2020, Waltman said.

The demonstration to reporters came as Pentagon officials are assessing bids on an up to $11 billion contract for a revamped electronic health record system there. In 2014, the House Appropriations Committee approved a plan to withhold VA's 2015 fiscal year funding for EHR upgrades until VA reported progress on interoperability with DOD's system. DOD's new digital service team is also working on integrating DOD and VA's records. 

EHMP has an improved "search" capability, Evans said. A care provider can type in a term such as "antibiotic," pulling up all mentions across patient records and lab reports. The system also contains a Web service, allowing users to access medical literature related to terms mentioned in patient records. 

VA is also adding features that would let patients access and contribute to their own records using Web and mobile apps, Evans said.

For instance, patients might enter blood pressure data if they're monitoring it at home, or could share their health goals with their care provider. VA also aims to share the eHMP software development kit with inventors; recently, some members of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program created a Fitbit application for the platform, which could funnel in data collected by the wearable fitness devices, Waltman said. 

Over the next few years, the department plans to improve upon and add more features to the application, such as the ability to order lab tests or medication. It's being developed using an agile process, and new iterations are rolled out every couple of weeks, Waltman said. “Some of these [features] are just in the middle of being coded," he added

“As entertaining as it was for us to have [The Daily Show host] Jon Stewart talk about [DOD system] AHLTA and [VA system] VISTA not talking to each other, that's not a laughing matter for veterans and service members," Waltman continued.

"We have shared data between DOD and VA for a long time, but what we have not always done, and what we are creating now, is a system for providers at the point of care taking care of veterans, that natively integrates all of the data from both sides," he explained. 

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