Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker on VLER progress

VA CIO Roger Baker

The Department of Veterans Affairs has signed up 30,776 veterans so far to participate in the health pilots around the country for the virtual lifetime electronic record (VLER) program, says Roger Baker, VA CIO. Demonstration communities are San Diego, Hampton Roads, Va., Spokane, Wash., and several others.

The pilots with the most veterans participating as of Nov. 22 are the Indianapolis pilot with 6,692; Richmond pilot with 4,643; and Buffalo with 4,359.

[See also: Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record pilot expands to include more veterans]

With VLER, VA and participating local providers share patient data through access to the nationwide health information network (NwHIN), a set of standards and services to exchange information securely through the Internet.

VA is assessing whether to go nationwide as planned in 2012 with the program to exchange the health records of veterans when they seek treatment with private providers.

“What generates the exchange of the information is that veterans actually show up to be seen at a VA facility or a private sector provider that is part of the health information exchange,” Baker said at a Nov. 23 media briefing.

[See also: VA hospital opens data exchange with MedVirginia]

During the call, Baker answered several questions, what follows are the most pertinent. 

Q: At what point is VA in its implementation of VLER?

Baker: We are in the evaluation phase now for a go or no-go decision for 2012 relative to national availability of the nationwide health information network (NwHIN) portion of VLER. Implementation and interfacing with the Defense Department, the private sector, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Social Security and others has gone very well. From a usage standpoint initially, we didn’t see as much exchange of information between VA and the private sector as we had expected. We have seen that picking up as we’ve gotten out to the broader pilots. From an information usability standpoint, we have expanded the data elements that have been exchanged. We know from measurements that when that information is exchanged, it’s very valuable to the clinician to have a list of drugs, lab tests or radiology for the individual.

Q: What other aspects of VLER are gaining traction?

Baker: VA also has a pilot for NwHIN Direct aimed at smaller providers exchanging directly with the VA as well. Our eBenefits site, which is part of VLER, is a joint site for benefits information where you log in as a service member and it carries over when you become a veteran. Over 1 million have registered at that site for information, like their education benefits, status of compensation claims, getting printed copies of their forms.