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VA software change could improve health care

Graphic: MGN

It could be a breakthrough for veterans health care in America. The Department of Veterans Affairs is changing the computer system it uses for medical records.

Many veterans have complained that the VA doesn't have access to their medical records from the Department of Defense, making it more complicated to get the care they need for issues that began during their military service.

Monday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin said the VA will convert to the same records system as the Department of Defense.

"Having a Veteran's complete and accurate health record in a single common EHR system is critical to that care, and to improving patient safety," Shulkin said. "VA's adoption of the same EHR system as DoD will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system and enable seamless care between the Departments without the manual and electronic exchange and reconciliation of data between two separate systems."

The conversion will take some time, in part because the VA has unique requirements, including a need to collaborate with academic affiliates and community partners.

"We are embarking on creating something that has not been done before," Shulkin said. "This is going to take the cooperation and involvement of many companies and thought leaders, and can serve as a model for the federal government and all of healthcare."

The VA will not go through the usual bidding process. Shulkin says he signed a "Determination and Findings" form which notes that there is a public interest exception to the requirement for full and open competition. He says using the D&F will shave years off the conversion process.

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