You may have seen recent news coverage alleging the mishandling of patient records by a VA medical facility in 2008. Some media reports on this issue have been inaccurate.
VA did not destroy patients’ personal medical records in VA’s electronic health record system, which has been in place since the 1990s.
The Department of Veterans Affairs cares deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve. Our goal is to provide the best quality, safe and effective health care our Veterans have earned and deserve. VA has established a record of safe, exceptional health care that is consistently recognized by independent reviews and organizations.
Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel addressed questions from members of the House of Representatives today on this topic saying, “There was no attempt to eliminate records.” and that several hundred records were properly closed only after a thorough administrative review.
The Greater Los Angeles VA Medical did identify that there were large numbers of very old imaging requests in the system. As part of appropriate patient care processes and in accordance with nationally established VA guidelines, the medical center performed a carefully planned project of administratively clearing old imaging requests after an extensive review of each individual request. At no time were “group” close-outs of imaging studies completed.
If patients do not show for their appointment or do not respond to scheduling attempts, orders are eventually discontinued after 12 calendar months. This is in accordance with VA guidance. Any study older than a year would no longer have clinical relevance and patients would need to be reevaluated by their providers prior to performing the study. In no instance was a study not completed because of a scheduling issue.
Reasons for studies not being completed included:
- Studies had been ordered when patients were inpatients but they had been discharged and did not follow-up at the Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center
- Studies were ordered out of the emergency department on patients who were from out of town and who did not return for follow-up
- Studies were no longer clinically relevant because patients had had other evaluations that obviated the need for the imaging study yet the request was not deleted
- Patients had not returned calls to schedule or did not show for the scheduled study
- Patients were no longer in the system.
America’s Veterans deserve the very best this nation can offer to honor their service and sacrifice. VA employees — nearly one-third of whom are Veterans themselves — care deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve.
What Veterans do not deserve is misinformation and distortions that may cause them to avoid seeking earned services and benefits. They deserve facts.
Military Times has more on today’s House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing here.
Dr. Dean C. Norman has served as Chief of Staff for the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLA) since 1999, and has served Veterans throughout his medical career. He has been on the medical staff of the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and a member of UCLA faculty since July of 1983, when he joined the staff of Geriatric Research Education and Clinic Center (GRECC) as Assistant Clinical Director and UCLA Assistant Professor of Medicine. In addition to managing all of GLA’s clinical, educational, and research operations, Dr. Norman has also served as Adjunct Professor of Medicine at UCLA since 1999.