The medical records of more than 19,000 soldiers and their dependents are now securely available to care providers in central and northern New York through a connection between the HealtheConnections regional health information exchange (HIE) and the Department of Defense (DoD) systems used by the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO).
HealtheConnections and FDRHPO jointly announced the collaboration in late December. The Fort Drum military base supports the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and other units.
Prior to the announcement, HealtheConnections had established a foothold in the region by enabling the HIE’s participating providers to share and access civilian patient records in furtherance of improved care.
“What’s been missing all these years has been the military,” said Corey M. Zeigler, FDRHPO’s chief information officer, in a public statement. “Now, when soldiers and their families get care in our area, all of that information goes back to their primary physician on post.”
Col. John McMurray, commander of Fort Drum’s Medical Activity (MEDDAC), said the HIE connection gives doctors on base a “better snapshot” of a soldier’s health, particularly important when determining when he or she is ready for duty after an injury or illness. “We are focused on readiness as a first priority,” said McMurray. “For instance, when we send a soldier out for an MRI, having instant access to that medical information is key.”
In 2014, HealtheConnections enabled patient medical record exchange with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Now the Fort Drum MEDDAC can leverage the HIE’s links with VA and DoD systems. “I’m excited about how this interacts with the VA,” said McMurray. “As we transition soldiers out of service, this sharing of medical records will ensure that they will be treated like soldiers for life.”
Although there are healthcare services located on the Fort Drum base, the facility does not have a military hospital. Members of the military receive care through a network of community healthcare partners, including physicians, specialists and hospitals. The mission of FDRHPO — which does not directly provide healthcare services — is to evaluate, plan and strengthen the region’s healthcare system for the base’s soldiers, their families and the surrounding civilian community.
HealtheConnections participates as a member of the Sequoia Project’s eHealth Exchange, a group of over 100 federal agencies and non-federal organizations striving to improve care using a secure, trusted and interoperable health information exchange. Overall, with 560 participating organizations in the 11 counties of central and northern New York, HealtheConnections provides access to regional patient health records — with patient consent — for use by providers.
“By facilitating access to the electronic health records of our community, military and veteran residents, we have created a comprehensive ecosystem for our regional providers,” said Rob Hack, CEO of HealtheConnections. “We’re proud of this important link to support our military and their families’ healthcare.”
In September 2015, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $48.5 million, four-year grant to help medical practices in the region and around the state transition to “team-based, data-informed care.” HealtheConnections and FDRHPO are among the participants in the grant project, known as the New York State Practice Transformation Network.
Photo credit: Fort Drum Army Base