The VA needs to extend its EHR modernization revolution by giving Veterans proven mobile technology for better care coordination everywhere!
June 8, 2017
By Dr. Bettina Experton

This week, the VA decided to move forward with a Commercial Off the Shelf Software (COTS) EHR to replace their dated and costly to maintain VistA EMR system – a wise decision. In selecting the Cerner EHR platform, the VA is also waiving the public procurement process for acquiring a readily available COTS system, saving time and money. As the VA Secretary Dr. Shulkin stated, “It is in the public interest to move quickly because it is quicker and cheaper than maintaining and modernizing the existing VistA EHR system.” Continuity of care for veterans transitioning from the DoD healthcare system, which will be equipped with a Cerner EHR, to the VA, is likely also another key driver for the selection.

Dr. Shulkin further stated in a White House press conference on Monday, June 1, that “the VA’s EHR system needs to communicate with the DoD as well as various community healthcare providers and academic medical centers that care for veterans, but use systems other than Cerner.”

To address this challenge, and ensure that Veterans receive safe and cost-effective care from community providers, the VA must also give Veterans a mobile tool that allows them to bring their up-to-date VA medical history with them, wherever they receive care. Many Veterans getting specialty or emergency care outside the VA often have a complex medical history to share with their non-VA providers, so accuracy and detail are key. For many of them, the new VA Cerner EHR will not always be able to transfer records to these community providers in a timely manner.

To avoid the consequences of this lack of up to date information at the point of care – resulting in potential medical errors and costly, unnecessary repeat tests and procedures – the VA must put each veteran’s EHR summary in his or her hands via a mobile application capable of receiving and aggregating VA, DoD and other providers' EHR summaries.

Such a mobile platform already exists - iBlueButton, which is already in use by thousands of Veterans who rely on the app to better coordinate their care and bridge the data gap between VA, DoD, Medicare and private providers under the Choice program. An optimum time for Veterans to be offered such a mobile tool will be during the health risk assessment visit part of the newly planned VA Community Care Program to improve on and replace the VA Choice program. This mobile application platform securely integrates all these data sources directly on the VA beneficiary’s mobile device and also enables a DIRECT Exchange to send and receive summary records from EMRs, including and especially the Cerner EHR Platform.

We firmly believe that digital mobile solutions such as the Humetrix iBlueButton platform can function as a complementary COTS mobile platform that will address concerns around interoperability with DoD and other community health providers. This is important as Veterans continue to move between the VA, DoD and the private sector, which can make it harder to provide the most up-to-date health information at those different points of care and to manage those care transitions.

The Choice Act is accelerating the utilization of private sector health care providers, hospitals, nursing and rehab facilities, increasing the need for VA patients to have easy access to their health data on their mobile devices. A COTS mobile platform like iBlueButton is positioned to be the glue that keeps Veterans' health data current and accessible across multiple delivery systems today, during the multi-year transition to the new VA Cerner EHR.

Humetrix is supportive of the VA’s move toward leveraging the Direct Exchange protocol to share health data between VA and private community healthcare delivery systems. We will in fact demonstrate today iBlueButton exchanging a Veteran's EHR data with a Cerner system at the ONC Direct Exchange Workshop

Veterans should not wait to receive safer care as they transition from DoD to VA and we commend the VA's decision for selecting - without any delays in public procurement - the Cerner platform for this safer transition of care. In the same way, veterans should immediately benefit from a COTS mobile application, provided by a company which has been selected as a Blue Button health partner of the VA since 2012 when it received the first of its three HHS/ONC Blue Button Industry Innovation competition awards. Humetrix stands to immediately respond to the new administration and the VA Secretary’s call to "act differently" to modernize its HIT systems and provide a proven mobile COTS technology that will ensure veterans receive safer and better quality care - today!

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