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Maine’s VA Facilities Gain Access to HealthInfoNet

August 18, 2015
by David Raths
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Goal is to improve care coordination for state’s veterans

HealthInfoNet, Maine’s statewide health information exchange, announced that it has become the first HIE in the nation to provide “viewing access” to Veterans Affairs (VA) clinicians.

With view access, authorized VA clinicians are able to obtain medical information from non-VA facilities to support clinical decision-making and care coordination. All of Maine's VA facilities, including eight community-based outreach clinics, three outreach centers, and the Togus Medical Center, will be given access to the HIE clinical portal this year.

In addition to view access, HealthInfoNet (HIN) has enabled the national bi-directional connection with VA's electronic health record system known as "VLER.” In the next year, HIN said, it will work with local and national VA leadership to establish bi-directional data-sharing workflows.

Unlike the consent model for Maine's non-VA medical information, veterans must "opt in" to share their VA records information with HIN's HIE. Over the next few months, veterans will be educated about their choice to opt in and share their VA data with the HIE.

In 2013, HIN and the State of Maine were awarded a three-year grant by the federal Health Research and Services Administration (HRSA) to improve care coordination for Maine’s veterans. At that time, projections from the VA Office of Rural Health found that 12.8 percent of Maine residents were veterans, the fifth-highest per-capita population in the country.

 Because Maine is a large rural state, access to VA facilities can be challenging and veterans must also seek care from their community’s private hospitals, mental health providers, community health centers and physician practices. This makes it difficult for both a veteran’s VA and private providers to coordinate their care, something critical to improving quality and reducing costs. Because Maine’s VA providers were unable to access information from private providers using the HIE, they were often unaware of services their patients receive outside the VA.

At the time the funding was announced, HealthInfoNet CEO Dev Culver, said, “We believe this funding will allow us to demonstrate a model for interoperability between the VA and private health providers that can be replicated across the nation.”