Starting April 17, 2020, your community providers who are in VA’s network and participate in the Veterans Health Information Exchange (VHIE) will be able to securely and seamlessly access your VA electronic health information in order to care for you. Previously, you had to complete a form to authorize this electronic sharing.
This comes as a result of the launch of the VA MISSION Act this past June, when VA expanded Veterans’ access to non-VA health care providers through the community care program. But as VA’s network of authorized community providers grows, so does the need to make sure those providers have access to the health information they need to deliver decisions about your care.
As a Family Medicine physician and Army Veteran, I believe that this positive change will have tremendous benefits. Not only does this electronic sharing help you avoid carrying paper copies of your record between providers, but the secure, seamless exchange of information with the specific providers treating you can dramatically improve your safety – especially in emergency situations.
VA has been using health information exchange (HIE) technology since 2009 to securely share information. Those instances include prescriptions and medications, and for allergies, illnesses and laboratory results when you see providers in other health networks.
This change is a significant upgrade. The VA MISSION Act removes certain restrictions on this kind of electronic sharing, which makes it easier for your providers – in VA facilities and in the community – to make sure your full care team has the information they need to:
- Better understand your health history and be able to focus more time on what is important to you.
- Develop safe, more effective treatment plans.
- Work together to keep you safe and improve your overall health.
Manage your sharing options
You do not need to take any action for VA to start securely and seamlessly coordinating your care via VHIE so that you have a better, safer experience. However, we understand that the idea of sharing personal health information electronically may be uncomfortable for some Veterans. Like all VA IT systems, VHIE complies with all federal privacy laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Community health care providers must be a part of VA’s approved, trusted network to receive your health information. If you do not want your care team to receive information via VHIE, you may opt out – but doing so means your community providers may not receive your medical record before you receive treatment. This could put you at risk.
There is no deadline to opt out and you can do so at any time. After April 17, you do not need to take any action to allow secure electronic sharing if you have not previously opted out. If you have previously opted out but want to resume sharing, you may also opt back in. Changing your sharing preference will not affect your access to community care through VA. Visit VA.gov/VHIE to learn how to manage your sharing options online via My HealtheVet.
I hope all Veterans take advantage of this opportunity to make sure your health care providers have a secure and more complete view of your medical history – helping us provide you with timely, high quality care when and where you need it.
Dr. Jennifer MacDonald is the acting chief consultant to the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health