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Spokane veterans will be among the nation’s first to have complete electronic health records

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 25, 2020

Veterans in the Spokane area will be among the first in the country to have complete electronic health records beginning next month. The Department of Veterans Affairs is launching its new electronic health records, run by Cerner, at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center.

The launch has been long-anticipated, since the 2018 announcement of the VA-Cerner partnership, and it represents the beginning of the VA’s transition to a seamless, all-electronic health record system for veterans.

“Our goal and our buzz-phrase has been this lifetime, single longitudinal health record,” said John Windom, executive director of the VA Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization.

This means that an active-duty service member who has an electronic health record through the Department of Defense would not have to worry about those records being transferred after being discharged. VA providers would be able to see a veteran’s medical history in their health records.

Previously, many veterans had to carry and keep their medical records with them wherever they went.

Eventually with the nationwide rollout of the electronic health record at both Department of Defense and VA sites, that will not be necessary.

The new health record will ease active-duty service members into their health care with the VA, as well as ease transferring electronic health records to other providers.

Each VA provider has a separate records system currently, but the systems do not communicate with each other, Windom said, and this shift will change that. Veterans receiving care in one place who move and need to seek care at another VA location will be able to do that without fear of losing their medical history.

The Mann-Grandstaff team is also implementing a new program for providers and patients that will ease the current challenges in scheduling appointments, said Dr. Laura Kroupa, chief medical officer for the office of EHRM.

“In the current system Spokane uses now, a scheduler can see one clinic at a time,” which presents challenges for providers who want to schedule procedures using certain personnel or clinics, Kroupa said.

“They have to schedule multiple times to get a time that’s convenient to provider,” Kroupa added.

The new system will alleviate those issues as well, ensuring that providers can spend less time on scheduling and more time with patients.

The new electronic health record is set to launch on Oct. 24, which will mean veterans need to prepare to see a slightly different online portal for booking their appointments and checking their records.

Windom said they are communicating with veterans ahead of time to ensure they don’t experience disruption or anxiety over the changes.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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