WASHINGTON — All veterans and servicemembers will have health information on things like their medical history, prescriptions, and lab results shared online by the end of the year, a significant step forward in federal efforts to create a lifelong medical record for military personnel.
The basic information — deemed the most critical medical data by health officials — will be accessible by all Defense Department and Veterans Affairs officials, and can be downloaded by patients to take to civilian physicians.
Roger Baker, assistant VA secretary for information and technology, said the announcement Tuesday is one of several "high-value, quick-win" actions by the departments as they work towards their goal of fully-integrated online health records over the next four years.
President Barack Obama promised the lifelong medical records for troops in spring 2009, calling it a critical tool to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and quality of care they deserve.
But progress on the records has been frustratingly slow, because of the existing cumbersome VA and DOD systems and infighting between officials at the agencies.
Assistant defense secretary health affairs Jonathan Woodson said officials also expect in coming months to expand identical health record interface tools to defense and VA polytrauma centers, in an effort to ensure that doctors caring for the most wounded veterans are seeing those patients' complete medical history.
Earlier on Tuesday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki praised the progress thus far as a sign of the government's dedication to helping servicemembers after the wars have ended.
"We have brought our two departments closer together than ever before, and that's good for our people," he said.
Woodson said officials from both departments expect to meet the end-of-year and 2017 goals even with pending defense budget cuts, although he did express concern that plans could be disrupted if Congress does not find a way to avoid automatic sequestration cuts scheduled for next month.