Pew calls on VA to ensure interoperability, patient matching with Cerner EHR

The nonprofit also called on VA Secretary Shulkin to lean on lessons learned from the private sector to advance its health IT strategy.
By Jessica Davis
03:40 PM
VA interoperability EHR

Pew Charitable Trusts is calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prioritize patient matching, adopt better standards and improve interoperability as it transitions from VistA to a Cerner electronic health record.

Outlined in a Tuesday letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, Pew’s chairmen highlight the need for seamless data exchange within the agency.

“Information sharing  is essential to successfully implement your vision of seamless care, which is the ability for clinicians to have the data they need to coordinate how they treat veterans,” the group said.

To accomplish this, Pew officials highlighted two major needs: patient matching and enhanced use of standards for clinical data elements.

For patient matching, the VA’s IT system must accurately match records regardless of location. Pew is researching the best way to advance patient matching, through enhanced demographics, patient-led solutions and the like.

The VA should study and prioritize patient matching enhancements as part of its health IT strategy and coordinate with the private sector. Shulkin has stated throughout his tenure that he values private-public partnerships, as he works to modernize the VA.

Secondly, the VA should use enhanced standards of clinical data elements, like vital signs, medications and test results, which can also drive seamless care. These can allow providers to compare lab tests from different care settings and also supports interoperability.

Specifically, the VA needs to work with the Department of Defense to align drug data updates. Currently, the agencies don’t follow the same schedule when updating medication information every month. As a result, providers often need to manually check the data for accuracy.

“The VA system can reduce health IT-related medical errors by focusing on enhanced testing of EHRs and collaboration with the private sector,” Pew officials wrote. “To further safety, the VA can ensure the health IT implemented is tested for safety throughout its life cycle.”

“By prioritizing ways to enhance patient matching, the standardization of data and EHR usability, veterans can have assurances they are receiving high quality, seamless and safe care,” they said. “The VA should make public how it address and incorporates these issues into its health IT strategy.”

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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