Thomas Verbeck: Sharing Medical Data Saves Lives

Thomas J. Verbeck | | July 19, 2015

Back when I was a colonel in the Air Force, I flirted with death. But the closest I came was not on a battlefield. It was in a civilian hospital where I was rushed after my aortic valve blew while boarding a plane to the Middle East. Amazingly, it wasn't the valve that nearly killed me. It was the civilian doctor's inability to access my military health record. Two weeks later, while I languished in a medically induced coma, the information finally arrived. From then on, I became a tireless advocate for something called interoperability - the capacity for electronic health records to be easily accessed and shared anywhere, anytime. Sharing data doesn't just save lives. It reduces health care costs, prevents medical errors and avoids unnecessary testing.

As a former chief information officer with a long career in information technology, my focus has intensified since the Department of Defense announced plans to spend $11 billion on a new EHR system - one that can seamlessly exchange health data for the country's nearly 10 million employees, military personnel, retirees and their families.
But the DoD's plan will fail. That's because most of today's EHR systems, including the bidder finalists, are designed only to work within their own system. That allows them to charge physicians and hospitals outside their system for access to your data. DoD can demand a system that seamlessly connects health data with civilian hospitals - or the VA - but it has failed to do so.

The solution is simple: DoD must delay this award pending a congressional review.
Putting soldiers at the center of care and ensuring that clinicians have all the information needed must be a minimum requirement for any future expenditures on health IT systems...


HIE versus EHR

Baby steps. My background consists of working for SAIC and the DOD health system as a contractor, post US Army for about 10 years. I worked as a Site Manager for various hospitals both nationwide and internationally. My strengths lie on the technology side, and I have worked in the healthcare space for 25 years, with the latter portion working with the Epic product (15 years). Epic is the DOD's healthcare products (CHCS, Vista, AHLTA) on steroids.
Although Epic's CareEveryWhere does not compare, nor does Epic suggest it compares, to a true HIE product similar to a robust engine like Intersystems Ensemble/Healtshare (there are others, but I am an Intersystems advocate). However, the corporate relationships between Epic/DOD and Intersystems (licenses, training, technical languages, technical support, etc.), along with overall cohesion exist currently. From a overall compatibility, and complimentary perspective, it only makes sense for the DOD to migrate to Epic. Epic is open-sourced from a technical perspective, with the application build consisting of a plethera of opportunities to incorporate specialized military operational, security and access, along with the opportunity to specialize clinical workflows throughout the enterprise. In addition, Epic supplies standard plugins/programming points with access to Epic technical support personnel for additional assistance. This eliminates the need for the DOD to hire programmers using custom code, and reduce the risk of negatively impacting the application when it comes to systems upgrades and installing priority/critical updates. Aside from the technical compatibility and business relationship perspectives, it makes sense for the DOD to choose Epic: application and clinical workflow application/server/db access application/servier/db hardware and infrastructure patient portal access and the sharing of information training (application, server and application just short of seamless) relationships (business and technical)

The advantages of accessing data dynamically and from a non-relational database, has always put the DOD health system at the forefront, with further enhancements of the existing attributing to the success of Epic Systems. Switching to a relational platform, will further impede the progress of the DOD healthcare at all levels of implementation and support.

It just makes sense, and I don't work for Epic.

Thanks, Tammy Wegner [email protected]