The Doctor Is In: Electronic Health Records and You

TRICARE health news

Today’s column was written by Barclay P. Butler, Ph.D., Director, Department of Defense/Department of Veterans Affairs Interagency Program Office (IPO). Dr. Butler leads all IPO initiatives to acquire, develop, and integrate major joint DoD-VA Health IT capabilities and prescribes the Departments’ design, development, integration, evaluation, and deployment strategies for electronic health systems.

Health professionals have long known the promise of electronic health records. For more than two decades, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have been working together to apply the benefits of this fast evolving technology. The Departments already share more clinical health information than any two health care systems in the world, and together will comprise the largest integrated health network in the world, with more than 18 million total members worldwide.

The new DoD/VA Interagency Program Office (IPO), where I serve as Director, is responsible for implementing an integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR) for the DoD and VA. When operational, the iEHR will follow you from the first day of your military career, throughout your lifetime. It will be the single source for service members, veterans, and beneficiaries to access their medical history. Additionally, it will ensure the seamless transition of care when service members go from active duty to veteran status.

Your complete medical record will follow you when you move, switch medical providers or need emergency care while traveling. Your family medical history and medical allergies will be immediately available to every doctor or nurse who treats you within DoD and VA health systems. With the ability to view consistent and comprehensive patient data, medical providers will be able to give you better care.

Researchers will also be able to study trends, securely and privately, across the large population in the system. This can lead to new medical breakthroughs that benefit everyone. For example, if we track data on patients with diabetes, we can minimize the number of amputation or instances of blindness. We can develop a registry of patients with similar injuries to measure the outcomes of current treatments to improve treatment protocols and quality of care now and for generations to come.

The iEHR is a key component of the President’s Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) initiative – a groundbreaking vision for the future of electronic data sharing among federal agencies and the private sector. If you receive private sector health care, VLER Health is a way to send those requests for care out to the private sector and, most importantly, to bring that data back. This ensures you have a complete medical record that captures all information about all care you receive.

We are committed to a fully operational iEHR, no later than 2017, with clinical capabilities deployed in Hampton Roads, Va. and San Antonio by 2014 — a significant challenge, but one that is critical for our nation’s service members, veterans and beneficiaries.

For more information about the DoD/VA IPO, visit To learn more about the role electronic health records play in medicine today, go to