In August 2023, the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) Office expanded its joint health information exchange to include participation in Carequality, a framework enabling health data sharing between and among networks.
Launched in April 2020, the joint HIE is a secure gateway used to connect federal electronic health records to participating provider organizations across the United States who agree to securely share clinical information with the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The joint HIE is the largest federal exchange in the U.S. With this expansion, we are leading the way in meaningfully sharing data across healthcare systems to enhance care delivery,” said Bill Tinston, director of the FEHRM, in a statement.
In August 2022, Carequality announced an expansion of the framework to enable participation of federal government agencies. Carequality said that expanding its policy agreements to enable federal participation increased the framework’s value further in promoting exchange across the private and public sectors.
At the time, Alan Swenson, executive director of Carequality, said, “The Carequality Interoperability Framework is a living, evolving framework for health information exchange across networks, technologies, geographies, and now private sector-government boundaries. The more we can accommodate each and every type of organization and care setting that need access to electronic health information, the closer we get to the vision of true nationwide health data sharing. Federal agencies are a critical part of ensuring this vision.”
Participating in Carequality significantly expands the percentage of U.S. hospitals connected to the joint HIE from 75 percent to more than 90 percent. DOD, VA, USCG and NOAA clinicians, nurses, and administrators gain access to an expanded set of patients’ external health records from participating provider organizations—from single-physician offices to multi-hospital systems outside of the DOD, VA, USCG and NOAA health care systems. Other organizations previously unable to query these departments can now retrieve data from them.
“This expansion reflects the collaborative work of the FEHRM and the departments to enhance the care experience for our patients and providers,” Tinston added. “It helps ensure a seamless care experience for patients navigating between different health care systems.
Through the joint HIE, providers can access information about their patients’ prescriptions, allergies, illnesses, lab and radiology results, immunizations, past medical procedures, and medical notes.
The joint HIE is part of the FEHRM’s overarching effort to deliver capabilities that enable the departments to deploy a single, common federal EHR. By implementing the same EHR, the departments can better document care from the time individuals enter the military through their care as veterans, including care they receive from participating provider organizations—viewable through the joint HIE.
“With this more complete view of an individual’s medical history, providers can make better informed decisions,” said Lance Scott, acting technical director and solutions integration director of the FEHRM, in a statement. “This data sharing drives enhanced health care quality, safety, and provider and patient satisfaction.”
The joint HIE is part of DOD and VA healthcare benefits, and DOD beneficiaries and veterans are automatically enrolled. But health records of patients who opt out of sharing will not be exchanged through the joint HIE.