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VA hospital in Colorado to share patient data with private physicians

Physicians treating veterans in southeast Utah soon will have an easier time coordinating care with doctors treating them at the nearest veterans' hospital, which happens to be across the state line in Colorado. The Veterans Health Administration will begin testing a health information exchange between the Grand Junction (Colo.) VA Medical Center and Moab (Utah) Regional Hospital and surrounding physician practices. The VA hopes this is the first of many projects across the country that will expedite the coordination of care for the seven in 10 veterans who receive some portion of care from private physicians and hospitals. Without a health information exchange, care was often repeated, delayed or inefficient because physicians had to wait for phone calls and faxes. The health information network will allow private physicians to get the medical records of the veterans they treat and share their clinical notes and test results with VA hospitals. "I think this is probably one of the big breakthroughs for our facility," said Terry Atienza, director of the Grand Junction VA Medical Center. "This will allow us to work more seamlessly, more securely, more efficiently and save money along the way." Tim Cromwell, director of standards and interoperability for the Veterans Health Administration, said the veterans most likely to benefit from information exchanges are those in rural areas far from VA medical centers. But they are often the last to see such technology. "Change usually comes from the coasts and then spreads to the middle of the country," Cromwell said. Because of a grant provided by the Dept. of Health and Human Services' Office of Rural Health, veterans in those areas don't have to wait for the technology to reach them, he said. The ORH awarded grants in 2010 to four states with large veteran populations living in rural areas. Utah received $1.2 million for the project. Many physicians in the area have electronic medical records but are not connected to the Utah Health Information Network, said Teresa Rivera, chief operating officer of the UHIN. When the physicians are connected, the UHIN will be linked to the Quality Health Network, the western Colorado health information exchange. Physicians in southeast Utah will be able to query and send information to and from the Moab hospital and the VA hospital in Grand Junction. The VA has begun talking with veterans about the project and obtaining consent from them to participate in the data exchange. All must opt in to the program, Atienza said. When the program is up and running, military personnel, through the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, will have a single medical record that carries them from active duty to retirement and beyond. The full and original article can be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/05/16/bise0518.htm
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