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Obama touts plan for lifetime military e-health records

Electronic military medical records will now follow service members to retirement

April 10, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that the Department of Defense (DOD) is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to create a new electronic-health record system that will include health care information for veterans from the time they enter military service through their retirement.

The two departments are working together to build the Joint Virtual Lifetime Record, which will standardize the way the agencies share electronic medical information.

"When a member of the armed forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a [DOD] duty station to a local VA health center. Their electronic records will transition along with them and remain with them forever," Obama said during a speech at the White House.

Internally, the VA's VistA medical records systems is widely recognized as the nation's most advanced electronic medical records system. It can share data between any VA hospital or health care facility around the world.

"Access to electronic records is essential to modern health care delivery and the paperless administration of benefits. It provides a framework to ensure that all health care providers have all the information they need to deliver high-quality health care while reducing medical errors," the White House said in a statement.

The DOD's health care budget, which will be $47 billion in fiscal year 2010, is growing by $900 million, with $400 million of that going for the new interconnected electronic records system as well as for new medical research and development. About $300 million will pay for the research and treatment of soldiers, sailors and Marines who've suffered traumatic brain injury as well as for psychological health programs. The military is also increasing funding by $200 million for improvements in child care, spousal support, lodging and education.

The VA's budget will increase by $25 billion over the next five years to cover increased funding for veterans' health care and to expand eligibility for health care to more than half a million veterans who were previously denied coverage.

The agency is also enhancing outreach and services related to mental health care and cognitive injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, with a focus on access for veterans in rural areas. The money will also pay for programs to address homelessness among veterans.

Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.

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