DOD/VA project to share health data with private hospitals
A research project announced Jan. 7 will explore how health data from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments can be shared with private health care providers.
The venture, called the Military Interoperable Digital Hospital Testbed, is a partnership between Northrop Grumman's Information Technology sector and Conemaugh Health Systems, a hospital group based in Johnstown, Pa.
Funding for the project, which the Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) in Fort Detrick, Md., is managing, was provided through a congressional earmark by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), whose district includes Johnstown.
"The primary goal is to address how clinical information from DOD and VA systems can be shared with physicians in a rural environment," said Robert Cothren, director of the clinical information systems division at Northrop Grumman IT. "We are planning to develop an interface so that private sector doctors can have access to those records."
"Sixty percent of patients in the veterans health care system are seen by outside providers," said Lt. Col. Hon Pak, TATRC's manager for the project.
The likely interface will be a Web portal accessed through a browser, said Bruce Walker, director of strategic planning at Northrop Grumman IT. Privacy and authentication issues will need to be addressed for the project to succeed, he added.
Rural health care providers are less likely than their metropolitan counterparts to invest in electronic medical record technology, Cothren said.
"They are looking to develop a portal which is compatible with the National Health Information Network," Pak added. TATRC is managing similar projects elsewhere, Pak said, including in Pensacola, Fla., and Spartanburg, S.C.
A similar Johnstown project involving Conemaugh Health Systems failed several years ago, said Cheryl Merritt, director of research support at TATRC. "They ran into many technology roadblocks," she said.
"Integration between the VA and DOD systems is easier because both have very cohesive IT programs," Merritt added. "But when you add civilian entities running unknown systems on different standards, it becomes much more difficult."