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VA WNY Healthcare System partners with HEALTHeLINK to enhance care for veterans

by jmaloni
Tue, Jul 31st 2012 03:45 pm

Press release

The Department of Veterans Affairs is proud to announce a new partnership to use health information exchange technology, which will improve the quality of care and delivery of medical treatment to local veterans, especially those returning from recent conflicts. Western New York is one of 13 communities in the U.S. selected by VA to participate in the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record Health Communities Program.

Participating physicians from VA, private practices and hospitals across Western New York will be able to access critical health information for their veteran patients through HEALTHeLINK, Western New York's clinical information exchange.

"The VLER program is aimed at creating a more convenient and comprehensive medical, personnel and benefits record for all veterans, in addition to creating a seamless transition from military to civilian life," said Brian G. Stiller, director of VA Western New York Healthcare System. "One of our priorities is to eliminate the need for our veteran patients to carry paper copies of their health records to private providers. The information will be accessible with a veteran's consent from military to VA to private-sector health care."

The program allows VA health care teams and community providers to access all laboratory, radiology and transcribed reports as well as medication history through HEALTHeLINK's health information exchange. A signed consent form for both VA and HEALTHeLINK is needed for veterans to authorize their treating physicians to safely and securely access health information electronically. Veterans can enroll in person at either the Buffalo or Batavia VA facility's Release of Information Office or Veterans Service Center. Forms can also be found online at http://www.buffalo.va.gov/vler.asp. HEALTHeLINK is coordinating its activities on this initiative with the Nationwide Health Information Network through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"HEALTHeLINK's participation in the VLER program is another example of how collaboration among health care organizations on health information technology initiatives is transforming patient care in Western New York," said Daniel E. Porreca, executive director of HEALTHeLINK. "This partnership allows medical information to be exchanged among treating physicians, whether at a VA facility, a hospital emergency room or at a primary care or specialist doctor's office, enabling more informed decisions and improved patient outcomes for our local veterans."

"Having a comprehensive medical picture for our veterans at the point of care is important as many are treated by physicians both at VA facilities and community providers," stated Dr. Miguel Rainstein, chief of staff, VA Western New York Healthcare System. "This partnership can lead to better coordinated care among treating physicians and the elimination of duplicate tests, which is why we are encouraging our veterans to complete both their VLER and HEALTHeLINK consents."

HEALTHeLINK is part of the Western New York Beacon Community, one of 17 selected Beacon Communities across the country, part of a larger movement to modernize health care. As a Beacon Community, HEALTHeLINK and Western New York received a $16.1 million grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the HHS to build and strengthen local health IT infrastructure and test innovative approaches to make measurable improvements in health, care and cost. The grant also focuses on improving clinical outcomes and patient safety with a focus on diabetes care management, through the use of health information technology and health information exchange.

"After two years of hard work, the Western New York Beacon Community Program continues to set an example for the nation by advancing health information technology to improve health care cost, quality and population health," said Craig Brammer, director of the Beacon Communities Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "The launch of the HEALTHeLINK and VA partnership is an important step towards ensuring more seamless and coordinated care for patients across the region."

"With the addition of health information from VA, the range of data available to participating physicians through HEALTHeLINK continues to grow, along with the number of patients who have authorized their treating physicians to access their health information," said Cheryl Howe, chair, HEALTHeLINK board of directors and executive vice president, operations, BlueCross Blue Shield of WNY. "The work being done here in Western New York through the VLER Program and others, like the Beacon Community, is contributing to the advancement of health technology across the country."


The not-for-profit organization was established through funding from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, The Catholic Health System, Erie County Medical Center Corporation, Independent Health Association, Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Univera Healthcare and the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers Capital Grant Program (HEAL NY) from New York state. HEALTHeLINK also received one of the country's largest awards as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program.

HEALTHeLINK stakeholders include a broad representation of health care professionals and organizations throughout the eight-county Western New York region, including the State University of New York at Buffalo, P2 Collaborative, Chautauqua County Health Network, the WNY Rural Area Health Education Center and local county public health departments.

For more information on HEALTHeLINK, visit www.wnyhealthelink.com.

About VA Western New York Healthcare System

VA Western New York Healthcare System provides comprehensive health care to more than 44,000 veterans in Buffalo, Batavia and community-based clinics in Dunkirk, Fredonia, Niagara Falls, Lockport, Lackawanna, Olean and a satellite site in Springville.

For more information, visit www.buffalo.va.gov.

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