DOD, VA health record effort makes notable progress

Navy Capt. Michael Weiner says the effort to integrate DOD and VA health records is making progress, cites non-technological obstacles.

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are “in a better place now than we have ever been” in their effort to blend their electronic health records, said Navy Capt. Michael Weiner, deputy program manager and chief medical officer for the Defense Health Information Management System.

Speaking as part of a panel on June 2, Weiner, who is also a physician, said that while the technical aspects of integrating such massive and data-rich systems are daunting enough, there’s a non-technological hurdle as well.

“When I started in medicine, I was hand writing my own notes, and I was pretty happy,” he said. “The market penetration [of EHR systems] today shows that a lot of physicians are pretty happy hand writing their own notes.”

Weiner was part of a panel discussion on the government’s role in health care technology innovation. Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra was the keynote speaker at the event, hosted by Bisnow and sponsored by Accenture.

Chopra said the health care reform bill passed in 2010 ultimately will cause changes in the kind of IT companies are developing. Right now, health care providers get paid based on volume – how many patients they see. That provides a fertile market for scheduling and billing systems.

As the reform law goes into effect, the dynamic will shift to reward better treatment of patients, including avoiding physician visits and hospitalization, when possible. That will invigorate a currently weak market for systems that improve patient care and facilitate doctor-patient communications without office visits, he said.

Secure messaging technology, Weiner said, following Chopra’s point, is one technology that allows patients to send questions to doctors and get answers back without risking exposing private information as using unsecured e-mail messages might.