HAMPTON — Vietnam veteran Chuck Gargulis is being treated for a rare bone marrow disease and sees doctors at the Hampton VA Medical Center and Bon Secours Virginia Health System.
Because he's seeing doctors from different networks, Gargulis, an Army veteran who lives in Newport News, is glad that the both networks can view his medical records. The Hampton VA and Bon Secours are part of a pilot program that allows authorized users access to shared patients' electronic medical records.
"They're the guys I want to have access," he said of his doctors. "They're keeping me alive."
The pilot program is called the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, or VLER for short. The Hampton VA and MedVirginia, a Richmond-based health-care information technology firm that's working with Bon Secours, demonstrated the system Wednesday before about 100 people, including representatives of several veterans' organizations.
The Obama administration in 2009 tasked the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense to come up with electronic medical records that can be shared among patients' providers. The first pilot, in San Diego, proved the technology would work. Hampton Roads was chosen for the second pilot site, and several partners have been working on it for the past year.
So far, 1,045 patients in Hampton Roads have signed up, giving permission for their providers at the VA, DOD and Bon Secours to view their electronic medical records. Eventually, the intent is to bring Riverside Health System, Sentara Healthcare and Eastern Virginia Medical School on board, said Dr. Katherine Gianola, the Hampton VA's clinical coordinator.
The program enables a patient's providers to view the same records, including allergies, medications, conditions, immunizations, vital signs, lab results and other information.
That'll come in handy because three out of four veterans get some portion of health care outside of VA hospitals, said Tim Cromwell, VA director of standards and interoperability.
He declined to disclose the pilot program's price tag Wednesday, but it has been a $2 million investment for Bon Secours and MedVirginia, spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky said.
Cromwell anticipates a return on investment by eliminating duplicate tests if providers, who are able to see test results ordered by another physician, decide not order the same test.
The pilot program is part of the federally created, secure Nationwide Health Information Network. So far, only 12 players are on the network, but 95 are in various stages of going through a rigorous approvals process to be a part of the network, said Michael Matthews, MedVirginia's chief executive officer.
Sharing medical records among providers electronically is speedier than the old paperwork way, said Richard Bone, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Newport News.
"The coordination between the facilities is outstanding," the Army veteran said.
It makes things easier for doctors, too, said Dr. Phillip Snider, a Bon Secours physician. When a doctor sees a new patient for the first time, the doctor can turn to the electronic medical record to easily see the most crucial information about a patient, rather than wading through a thick paper file, he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun