From initial entry to retirement, access to seamless health care top priority among leaders

by Military Health System Communications Office

Leaders from across the Military Health System and Department of Veterans Affairs work diligently to ensure patients receive timely and seamless care as they transition from one system to the next. Plans are underway to modernize electronic health records and improve how military medical information is transferred between the two departments.

“We are committed to interoperability,” said Dr. Paul Cordts, director of Defense Health Agency Office of the Functional Champion, which serves as a liaison between DHA and Defense Healthcare Management Systems. More than 50 percent of care is delivered outside military treatment facilities through the TRICARE network, he added. “It’s very important for us to be able to see that care.”

Cordts leads the strategic planning for the construction of an integrated system for readiness and health in the MHS. About 9.4 million beneficiaries in the DoD and 8.9 million beneficiaries in the VA rely on electronic health records. A huge quantity of health care information is available on the DoD side alone, and while the electronic exchange of information may be available in areas such as the National Capital Region, it’s important to decipher the quality and usefulness of that information, said Cordts.

“A provider in the TRICARE network can see information about care at Walter Reed or Fort Belvoir, or vice versa,” said Cordts, speaking at the AMSUS Annual Meeting at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on November 29. “But what is the quality of that information? Is it useful? Is it ingested into the electronic health record? If it’s ingested, is it available and useful and part of the workflow so that it’s immediately available to the clinical team?”

By modernizing the electronic health record system across DoD and VA, providers will be able to access complete and accurate records for patients. This allows service members and veterans to receive care through one integrated and seamless system. Updating the health records not only improves patient safety, but also takes away the need to manually exchange and gather data between departments.

“I think we can all recognize that technology is evolving,” said Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, chief medical officer for the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization executive office. The updated process will improve usability, reliability, and safety for both providers and patients. “If you think about where we were five to 10 years ago to where we are now, things have changed a lot.”

And they’ll continue to change as DoD and VA work together to move health care in a better direction, said Zenooz. The transformation of the electronic health record is based on quality, safety, and value, with the overall goal to focus more on patients and providers.

“We’re absolutely interested in working together with the broader federal community to ensure that medical records are shared and available so our patients are [able] to have all of their information in one place,” said Zenoonz.

This year, the conference theme emphasized force health protection, from the battlefield to home, with 15 countries represented by international delegates and military medical officers. DHA leaders discussed the ongoing Military Health System (MHS) transformation throughout the week.

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