Federal healthcare agencies are bringing the private sector into discussions of a long-term vision for what is being called a "virtual health system" of interoperable electronic medical records and personal health records, a top government informaticist says.
Speaking at a medical records conference in Chicago today, Gary Christopherson, senior advisor to the Department of Veterans Affairs under secretary for health, said that about 30 major healthcare organizations, technology vendors and government agencies met Nov. 3 to discuss how they could work together toward this vision.
Christopherson unofficially refers to this strategy as HealthePeople, a public companion of sorts to HealtheVet, the next-generation information technology system and strategy at the Veterans Health Administration. It is an outgrowth of the Consolidated Health Informatics strategy to link the VA, Military Health System and Indian Health Service of HHS with standardized communication and data protocols.
Among the participants at the Nov. 3 meeting were Kaiser Permanente, CMS, the American Association of Family Physicians, the Connecting for Health project of the Markle Foundation, Hewlett Packard Co., Microsoft Corp., Epic Systems Corp., the Institute of Medicine and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, according to Christopherson.
Christopherson says the VA is encouraging other entities to participate. "The collaboration is a wide-open collaboration," he says.
In the next month or two, the agencies will announce six more standards for connectivity of medical records in the federal health delivery networks, Christopherson says. They previously settled on five protocols, including Health Level Seven messaging standards and pharmacy ordering codes developed by the National Council on Prescription Drug Programs.
"If we showed leadership, if we did this right, we could be the tipping point toward national standards. Voluntary, but national," Christopherson says.