Army medical center successfully tests health records system

Pilot project allows patients to access personal records in Defense systems through Google, Microsoft portals.

CHICAGO--The Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., has completed a successful test of personal health record systems that allowed patients to access information contained in the Defense Department's AHLTA electronic health record system. Now the pilot project will be extended to the Navy National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and a civilian hospital system serving military patients in Virginia, Madigan officials told the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference here this week.

Col. Keith Salzman, Madigan's chief of informatics, said the hospital developed a Web portal called Micare to allow the 308 patients participating in the test to access AHLTA data through either the Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault personal health record systems.

Salzman said the pilot allowed patients access to a wide variety of medical information pulled from AHLTA, including results of laboratory tests, medication information and clinical notes. Allowing patients to access their own health data reduces the load on clinicians, Salzman said. He said Kaiser Permanente, the largest civilian health care system in the country, saw a 25 percent reduction in face-to-face appointments when Kaiser started using HealthVault.

Lt. Col. Nhan Do, chief of medical informatics at Madigan, said the use of Micare to send lab results electronically rather than mailing them will result in significant cost savings. He estimated Madigan could save $10,000 a year in postage if all patients in the center's outpatient clinic had access to Micare and $4 million a year if the Military Health System used it for all of its 9.2 million patients.

Salzman said Madigan plans to work with the Navy National Medical Center to launch Micare at that facility later this year and also is working on a personal health record project with Riverside Health System, which operates six hospitals in the Hampton Roads area of southern Virginia, home to multiple Army, Navy and Air Force facilities.

Dr. Charles Frazier, vice president for clinical innovation at Riverside, which treated 8,807 military patients last year under the military's TRICARE health plan, said a personal health record system would provide both patients and doctors increased visibility into medical information.

Salzman said he has had discussions with the Veterans Affairs Department to provide access for veterans to Micare, but no plans have been developed.

Tom Munnecke, a San Diego-based philanthropist who helped develop the VA's Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture (VistA) electronic health record system in 1978, said a joint Defense-VA personal health record system is the best way to meet President Obama's mandate Thursday that that the two departments develop a join electronic health record.

Personal health records provide a Web-based dashboard with a comprehensive view of patient information and are less cumbersome than highly centralized electronic health record systems, Munnecke said.