Health Information Sharing is essential to Veterans’ health


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Dr. Richard Stone is the acting executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration.

Health care is personal, and trust comes from feeling that your providers know you and your health issues. When I see patients, I want to spend as much time as possible addressing whatever brought them into the exam room, not having them repeat their medical history over and over again. Making sure every member of their care team has the right information is key to delivering safe, high-quality care in a coordinated way. Today, that often means sharing health information electronically between providers or facilities.

With the launch of the VA MISSION Act this past June, VA expanded Veterans’ access to community care. We use the Veteran’s Health Information Exchange (VHIE) to securely share health information with our trusted network of community providers. This seamless electronic access to patient medical history helps your providers make more informed treatment decisions – and drives better health outcomes.

VA has been using VHIE since 2009 to securely share vital health information with outside providers, but under prior law, VA could only do this for Veterans who opted to share information via VHIE. The MISSION Act gives us the opportunity to improve care coordination, allowing VA to automatically and securely share health information when you have an appointment with your community provider, and this change will go into effect in early 2020.

The benefits of sharing

We encourage all Veterans to take advantage of automatic, secure sharing via VHIE to give their providers a more complete view of their medical history. Doing so enables community providers to:

  • Better understand your health history so they can spend more time focusing on what’s important to you.
  • Develop a safer, more effective treatment plan.
  • Coordinate with your VA care team to improve your overall health, without repeating tests, for example.

You will always have the ability to opt out of VHIE sharing if that is your preference. You can currently submit a VA Form 10-10164 to your facility’s Release of Information Officer, and an option to complete and submit this form electronically will be available soon. Choosing to opt out will not impact your ability to access community care, and you can opt back in at any time.

Trust

VA takes the responsibility of protecting information, such as your personally identifiable information and medical information, very seriously. We follow and exceed all of the stringent security standards for IT systems which contain patient health information from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We only provide medical records to trusted community providers who share VA’s focus on privacy controls and safeguards.

Veterans trust VA to deliver quality, timely care every single day, and under the MISSION Act, we are delivering more health care choices than ever before. Trust in VA outpatient care has jumped to 87.7 percent, but we know we can do even better.  I hope you will trust VA to securely deliver your healthcare records to your community provider, so they can provide you with the best care possible. Our nation’s Veterans deserve nothing less.


Dr. Richard Stone is the executive in charge at the Veterans Health Administration

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Benjamin Krause    

    Dr. Stone is basically saying veterans can trust VA to share our records with third parties without a hickup. And therefore, no one should be worried about this roll-out and automatic sharing without express written consent.

    Meanwhile, VA OIG is releasing damning reports of one data breach after another of veterans’ health information and PII due to VA mismanagement. So, if VA cannot even maintain data integrity within its own agency, how can we trust VA to get it right with third-party vendors?

    Many veterans (i.e. the stakeholders that should matter) do not agree about how VA is rolling out its new Veterans Health Information Exchange with the AUTOMATIC OPT-IN process executives thrust onto us with a few days notice in September.

    https://www.disabledveterans.org/2019/09/27/veterans-affairs-to-share-veterans-health-information-without-consent/

    Why not continue to allow veterans to opt-in using the express written consent standards VA used since 2014? What about the veterans who plan to remain using VA where the use of a Health Information Exchange is not required? The sharing of health information is simply not necessary for all veterans using VA healthcare right now. So, why is VA auto-sharing health information without express written consent?

    https://www.disabledveterans.org/2019/10/01/no-consent-required-4-things-you-need-to-know-on-new-va-privacy-rules/

  2. SMSgt M.C. McDermott (Ret)    

    Just remember, everything you say to anyone in the VA is forever and discoverable to anyone who has access or a court order etc.

  3. Patricia Banks    

    It’s great seeing these advancements, wish we had them when my husband was still alive.
    I’m glad to know I can help my brother with his ailments by having access to information.

  4. Philip Sweeting    

    Guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I have always received good service from the VA. I have a 10% disability due to agent orange while being in Viet Nam from 1970-1971. I extended my tour so I could get an early out of the Navy.

    Being a Viet Nam vet I didn’t make it know to many that I served there due to the many who opposed the war. Recently however, I have begun to feel proud that I served in Viet Nam even though I now believe our country was wrong to be there. Thousands of lives were needlessly lost due primarily to President Johnson who knew we could not “win” but continued the war for political reasons.

    In any event, I served my time and now I take advantage of all the benefits I am eligible for from the VA as should all veterans no matter how difficult it may be.

  5. Ralph Mills    

    SO! Why are you sharing, I provide my outside medical people what I want them to know and share those reports that we discuss at my appointments.

    SO! stop sharing my data! Ralph Mills

    ps you apparently have my email as your bombarding me daily with flyers that I do not have time to fully read. Do I need to opt out of that, The solution is to know I am a male, so don’t send me thing meant for women,

  6. I Love North Conway    

    Health Information Sharing is essential to Veterans’ health? I can only think of a few instances where this would actually make sense.

  7. S W    

    Trust

    VA takes the responsibility of protecting information, such as your personally identifiable information and medical information, very seriously. We follow and exceed all of the stringent security standards for IT systems which contain patient health information from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We only provide medical records to trusted community providers who share VA’s focus on privacy controls and safeguards.

    NOT TRUE

  8. S W    

    Mr Stone is lying on several counts.
    First, the VA does NOT protect any veterans information. My VA insists that veterans check in at kiosks for their appointments. These kiosks are NOT privacy protected sufficiently enough that a veteran’s information can not be seen and stolen while they are using them. Firstly, this is a blatant violation of veterans’ HIPAA rights. Secondly, this is the VA violating its obligations under 45CFR to protect every veterans personally identifiable information (PII).
    I was recently made aware that very soon my VA will require all veterans to submit their travel electronically on a kiosk. They will no longer be able to go in to the travel office to submit it. I asked if this meant that for those of us who refuse to use the kiosks, that we would not be able to get our travel reimbursements and was told yes, this was what is going to happen. Ok, let’s screw the vets this way, deny them travel reimbursement and make them pay out of pocket to travel to a VA hospital or clinic.
    Veteran suicides, hmmmm. Let’s see. Human contact is being taken away at VA hospitals because veterans have to sign in for appointments at a machine. They also have to do travel at a machine. So how do they get their questions answered if they have one? That MACHINE can’t answer. ED visit, veteran is in excruciating pain due to a disability. First, they have to wait AN HOUR for an examination room to become available because the nurses are coddling a veteran in one of them who should either be sent up to the ward or sent home and told how to take care of the flu bug they have. But no, lets tuck them in with a nice warm blanky and fluff a pillow for them in the exam room that is needed. Next, the “doctor” in the ED won’t even prescribe a muscle relaxer for the vet who is in such bad pain without contacting the vets regular provider to get the ok to do so. Meanwhile, the vet is sitting there for four hours in agony, now they are ready to take someone’s head off because they can’t stand it any more. They didn’t come in asking for opioids, they don’t want those. Then, of course, the doctor also is minimizing why they have the pain. It has nothing to do with the bulging discs they have in their back. No, that can’t be it. It MUST be normal wear and tear, and use, and the degenerative condition. Well, thirty years ago, IN THE SERVICE, this was happening and they didn’t have a degenerative condition and hopefully at that younger age it wasn’t wear and tear. No wonder veterans commit suicide with this kind of treatment. The VA IS CREATING the situation, are loath to admit it and actually do anything to rectify the situation. My VA is very short staffed in the mental health clinic and they don’t seem to want to hire anyone else. I know one provider in that clinic who is a doctor of psychology and she was pulled meaning she can only spend half her time seeing patients because she’s expected to do administrative work the rest of the time. What this has meant is that she either has to see her patients half as often as she used to to or she has had to transfer then to another provider in the clinic.
    As to opting out of sharing their personal information. Well, I opted out but then got a referral for a provider in the community. A woman from the VA called me, I guess she was making sure I still wanted it since it had been A MONTH since the referral was put in. I affirmed I still wanted it and she said she would send my information to the provider. Well, since I opted out of sharing, I wonder exactly what and how much information she sent. Has my privacy been violated? Did she send information that this community provider didn’t NEED TO KNOW?

    1. George D    

      > Did she send information that this community provider didn’t NEED TO KNOW?

      You bet they shared your PHI. But probably only the “minimum essential” info.
      But the outside provider will make your treatment with them available on one or more of the Health Information Exchanges! VA can ask that they not do that, but they won’t do it. And you can ask the provider not share your PHI yourself, but under HIPAA, they don’t have to agree to it! A real Catch-22.

  9. Susan Cronin    

    I know for a fact that I cannot trust my VA in Southern Nevada, nor the VA in general.
    Trying to get my own records is hard enough, I waited almost 2yrs for the VA to “follow up” on my hospital admission.
    Sent home from hospital with oxygen and weak. No home health ever showed up and my sons had to fly here to help me.
    Very embarassing and expensive.

    Finally got some relief when I called the VA White House.
    Can’t find help with forms for Ft.McClellan in Anniston,Alabama pertaining to my basic training. Was in Charlie copany in April 1964 and exposed to leaking poisons from World War 1 on, nuclear waste as well as Monsanto dumping. Entire city of people living in Anniston was awarded big bucks but none of us that trained there got anything.

    So depressed. when I read some of the “old records” on why they didn’t give me any compensation for adult onset PTSD, they were wrong. Girl’s suicide was dispute.

    Thanks for letting me vent. I’m going to Mayo Clinic on my own and charge it. Can’t trust the VA.

  10. R. Lynn    

    As a Veteran, I do not believe this to be essential to my health whatsoever and believe this is another means to acquire and share private healthcare information. Does this mean that veterans who are FLAGGED in the DVA healthcare system will now be flagged by private providers? There is ZERO accountability or transparency in what you are doing with Veteran’s information. Freedom is the ability for those who have gave their life for their Country, the ability to control our own healthcare management and decide for ourselves who is allowed to view and share our information. The DVA is costing over 22 lives in suicide and has failed in the provision of due professional care, and now you want to spill your dysfunction into the private sector? No thank you!

    Let us Veterans see if this is actually posted 🙂 or suppressed?

  11. Rachel Perry    

    The DVA is violating privacy and sharing information without permission and punishes the Veterans who report this. Instead of figuring out more ways to trick us into interfering in our lives, why not allow us to go outside of your healthcare system for care? Why should any of us believe this has been done in the best interest of veterans?

  12. Tolbert Barton jr    

    how do I get my health information. I have an android phone. Who is supposed to keep veterans health records up to date. I have checked my records on my health and there is nothing there
    How do I know the person inputting my information, medical and personal is qualified and won’t use or give out personal information. I guess in short is there an app to download

  13. Robert Allen Shabarekh    

    Does VHIE work in both directions? Does the VA have access to community provider health information? Thanks

    1. George D    

      Yes, they do.
      Not only that, in a letter I received from my local Privacy Office, they actually told me that if you don’t want them to access your outside records, you have to tell THEM (the outside institutions) not to release your records!
      And, of course, no private hospital will agree to that.

  14. Gilbert A. Kiaha    

    Health Information Sharing is essential to Veterans’ health? That truly depends on the Veteran because each situation/circumstance is different. Here is the problem, you let the VETERAN decide if their health RECORDS should be shared so that it is ALWAYS confidential. Fyi and for every Veteran to know that this specific information is FACTUAL, the VA has been behind CLOSED doors sharing our personal HEALTH records since 2016?

    Blessings,

    Gil Kiaha

  15. Gilbert A. Kiaha    

    Health Information Sharing is essential to Veterans’ health? That truly depends on the Veteran because each situation/circumstance is different. Here is the problem, you let the VETERAN decide if their health RECORDS should be shared so that it is ALWAYS confidential. Fyi and for every Veteran to know that this specific information is FACTUAL, the VA has been behind CLOSED doors sharing our personal HEALTH records since 2016?

    Blessings,

    Gil Kiaha

  16. Michael J Morneault    

    In August of this year 2019 the Bennington Vermont VA Clinic put in an order for me to have a colonoscopy at SVHC Hospital in Bennington, VT. It would save me driving 100 miles to White River Junction Veteran Hospital in VT.
    The order was approved by the VA, and the clinic forwarded it to the hospital. The Hospital said on admissions that they “saw no order from the VA.” I know my-provider at Bennington sent the order . I can only wonder if the hospital Chose to ignore the order. Perhaps the hospital felt getting paid by medicare was a better bet?
    In any event, the President’s Mission Act of June 2019 was either ignored or lost in the hospital system. Because of difficult extraction ,and pathology reports, I had to have a second colonoscopy 2 months later and now a third one in April 2020. I do not believe Medicare will help. Is the VA going ro help me get this at least resolved so I have an approved VA colonoscopy at that hospital in April 2020? It is for further diagnosis.
    I don’t want to think that our local hospital is overlooking VA orders intentionally. I am certain that the order got to someone there, but, uncertain, how it could not be found in the system?

    1. S W    

      Mr. Morneault,

      When the initial colonoscopy was set up, you should have received a letter from your VA (community care office) regarding when and where it was to happen. If you didn’t, your VA messed up royally. I hope the hospital you went to didn’t bill you or Medicare. If they did and you or Medicare paid, you are owed reimbursement from the VA. I highly recommend you contact your community care office at your VA to discuss your concerns. I also recommend that you see them in person, no phone calls if possible. Either way, when you contact them be sure to keep notes including, when you contacted them (date and time), who you spoke with (even if you have to ask them to repeat their name for you) and what they said (as close to verbatim, word for word, as possible). Do this every time you talk to them. I also recommend you do this each time you speak to someone at the hospital.
      I also suggest you go to your VA Clinic and see if you can get a copy of the original order for the first colonoscopy and the second one. I’m not clear on who made the request for the second one nor who thinks you need to have a third one done. You really need to contact your VA provider and ask for the results or go to release of information to get a copy of these records. I seriously don’t understand the need for a third colonoscopy. I’m inclined to believe that if you or Medicare has paid for the first two that someone is just playing you. The hospital?? Hospitals have been known to really inflate the costs for procedures and bill Medicare for them. This really needs to be looked into.

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