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Bill sets timeline for health records sharing

Jul. 16, 2013 - 03:03PM   |  
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A Florida lawmaker wants to hold the Defense Department to a strict timeline for setting up a system to share military medical records with the Veterans Affairs Department.

“For 15 years, we have tried to fix this problem,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. “In the past five years, the departments have spent around $1 billion, but we are not there yet.”

Sharing medical records is important to separating service members, Nelson said. “They should not have to worry about retaking medical tests or jumping through bureaucratic hoops to make sure their health records are complete.”

On Monday, Nelson introduced a bill, S 1296, that sets specific goals:

■Within six months of enactment, DoD and VA physicians must use standardized forms for capturing health data.

■Within one year, the two departments must be able to exchange real-time data with a joint and common graphic interface.

■By June 30, 2015, service members must have the option of receiving an electronic copy of their health records.

DoD and VA had been working for years trying to create a joint system but have abandoned those plans, as defense officials say they are now looking for commercially available software.

Nelson said that effort is “a positive sign,” but he wants to make sure progress is made.

“We need a modern health record system, and it needs to happen without further delay,” Nelson said Monday as he introduced the bill.

The Servicemembers’ Electronic Health Records Act was referred to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for consideration. Nelson also has the option of trying to get his measure attached to the 2014 defense authorization bill when the Senate takes up this annual policy measure later this year.

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