VA Launches Platform Designed to Enhance Interoperability

July 13, 2020
Officials say that a longitudinal patient record will enable physicians to immediately use veterans’ health data from both VA and outside providers

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched the Veterans Data Integration and Federation Enterprise Platform (VDIF EP), which officials say will produce a longitudinal patient record by aggregating and normalizing clinical data across its existing electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

VA leaders attest that this platform will enable health data interoperability for the nation’s veterans, and “has been a goal of VA for more than a decade because a longitudinal patient record enables clinicians to immediately use veterans’ clinical data from both VA and external providers…”

Based on InterSystems HealthShare technology, VDIF aggregates and normalizes data from 130 different EMR instances supporting 172 VA medical centers and 1,074 outpatient clinics, according to officials. With VDIF, veterans’ longitudinal patient records are available to providers within Veterans Health Administration (VHA) as well as to external providers delivering care to veterans, they added.

The VDIF project was led by the VA Office of Information Technology (OIT), in conjunction with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) together with Cambridge, Mass.-based InterSystems Corporation, with implementation by Ready Computing. VA now plans to connect dozens of clinical applications to VDIF.

Officials pointed out that a longitudinal patient record also enables veterans to take their entire care history with them when they seek care outside the Veterans Health Administration system – at a private hospital, for example. This is a realization of the 2018 MISSION Act, a law that streamlines veterans’ access to healthcare from outside providers.

With the platform in place, clinicians can now more easily access a veteran’s entire medical history from a single view, rather than sifting through multiple sites to find all the relevant clinical data, VA and InterSystems leaders noted.

“InterSystems is proud to build on its 40-year partnership with VA to improve the delivery of care for Veterans and their families,” George Hou, head of solutions for the Department of Veterans Affairs at InterSystems, said in a statement. “During this unprecedented healthcare crisis, providers are actively relying on clean, accurate, and complete healthcare data to deliver care to veterans.”

In April, the VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) launched a health data sharing capability that officials contend will enhance both departments’ ability to securely exchange records with community healthcare partners. Since that launch, the benefits of the new joint HIE capability have been available to all VA and DOD care providers and to all participating community partners.

The VA continues to work on replacing the department’s 40-year-old legacy EHR system, the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), by adopting the same platform as the DOD, a Cerner EHR system. But both the VA’s modernized health records platform, as well as the DOD’s new EHR system, MHS Genesis, have had their rollouts delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of the MHS Genesis platform began at DOD sites in 2017, while the first go-live date for the VA EHR system is still forthcoming.

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