- Coordinated Care Oklahoma (CCO) has become the first health information exchange to connect with the Department of Defense, putting the department one step closer to full health data interoperability.
According to a press release, subscribers to the CCO HIE – which include practitioners in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Kansas – are able to tap into the exchange to access military personnel’s health records. This will help improve the care of the nearly 22,000 active military personnel in region.
Leaders from CCO boast an intuitive and easy-to-use HIE, which in the long run will result in quicker data exchange times and faster care delivery.
"Our mantra is 'Ease of Use,'" said Brian Yeaman, MD, chief administrative officer at CCO. "We have a proven ability to provide accurate, up-to-date, secure and reliable health records to our subscribers at Coordinated Care Oklahoma. Up until this point, military personnel and their families were covered as it pertains to electronic health records in a sort of duplicate system and then only within base medical installations."
Because the health data is now connected to the CCO HIE, healthcare providers for military personnel on and off a base will be able to access the entirety of the patient’s health record.
This is particularly important in a state like Oklahoma, Yeaman said, considering the high number of active military leaders in the area.
"In Oklahoma we have a high number of active duty military and retired military personnel," says Yeaman. "We wanted to bridge the gap and serve this group. CCO provides the link between hospitals, clinics and private physician practices state-wide with this patient base of 45,000."
Interoperability at the Department of Defense has been a point of contention for some time.
In July 2014, the Government Accountability Office issued a report pointing out the lack of interoperability at DoD and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, stating that during the agencies’ efforts to create a joint EHR, interoperability was not on the horizon.
Even after both agencies abandoned their efforts for a joint EHR, they faced scrutiny for their limited health data interoperability. At the start of 2015, GAO ranked DoD and VA interoperability among the top healthcare risks for the year.
DoD made headlines months later after announcing the Leidos and Cerner proposal as its choice in its EHR modernization project. The $9 billion contract may have been the result of Cerner’s focus on health data interoperability, many industry experts have hypothesized.
According to Cerner leaders, the company has been focusing on interoperability and health information exchange for some time, looking to fully solve the problem.
“But we’ve been working on this for over a decade in terms of health information exchanges, connecting communities, and working with a number of states to do some of that work,” said Travis Dalton, General Manager at Cerner Federal, in an interview with EHRIntelligence.com.
“So I think that we’re excited that we’ve come to this point, because it’s something that we’ve really been trying to focus on for a long time.”
DoD’s deal with Cerner did not automatically lead to interoperability gains, however. In October 2015, DoD and VA again fell under fire in a Congressional hearing, where lawmakers scrutinized both agencies for their dearth of interoperability progress.
“I don’t mean to understate the enormity of the challenge of integrating the two largest federal bureaucracies,” said Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, “but it’s clear to me that our inability to integrate these two systems is a failure of leadership rather than technical feasibility. This is not an issue of data standardization. This is management 101.”
For all of DoD’s back and forth with achieving interoperability, however, it’s put a few wins under its belt as of late. In addition to connecting to its first HIE, the agency has announced that its Joint Legacy Viewer has met the interoperability guidelines laid out in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA).
Going forward, DoD will need to continue to work toward robust health IT interoperability, several of its leaders have said. In doing so, the agency can improve the quality of care delivered to its patients, as well as make their patients’ lives easier.