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    DoD/VA Personal Health Record is key to increasing patient engagement and military readiness

    DoD/VA Personal Health Record is key to increasing patient engagement and military readiness

    Photo By Savannah Blackstock | U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Hae Kyung (Amy) Park, Ph.D. discusses the role of...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Defense Health Agency

    As Military Health System providers, ensuring the readiness of service members is our number-one priority. None of us, however, were ready for 2020’s relentless swarm of unprecedented circumstances instigated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure our forces are prepared for what we know may be coming – and any other surprises the future may hold – we must empower them to fully participate in their own health, well-being, and readiness. That’s why the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs are collaborating on a joint patient engagement system that includes a joint personal health record.

    Research indicates that empowering patients to proactively access, manage, and control their own health-related data improves their communication with providers and care teams. It also enables patients to take ownership in their own health decisions, resulting in improved health outcomes. As part of a suite of patient engagement tools, a PHR is specifically designed to increase patients’ ownership of their data and engagement in their own care, which together improve both health outcomes and readiness.

    Both the DoD and VA recognize the critical need for more effective patient engagement solutions to improve data exchange and continuity of care among patients, MHS providers, VA providers, and commercial providers. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, national legislation such as the 21st Century Cures Act, and departmental policies including DoD Instruction 6040.48 all mandate the development and implementation of a joint DoD/VA PHR. The DoD/VA Patient Engagement Work Group is spearheading efforts to create a single, lifetime, personal health data space that beneficiaries would own and control throughout their military careers and would easily transition to VA and community health care afterward.

    Understanding the PHR

    The joint DoD/VA personal health record will be a digital health care tool accessible through a mobile app or online location. Beneficiaries would download copies of their official medical records from DoD, VA, and community providers and store them in one secure, easy-to-access digital location under patient ownership and control.

    To smooth service members’ transition from active duty to VA or community medical care, the PHR would be fully integrated with the unified, interoperable electronic health record platform currently being implemented for DoD and VA. Beneficiaries would also be able to message care teams and make appointments, just as with an EHR and its patient portal.

    The PHR would empower patients with additional functionality, such as storing and managing data from:

    • Extensive personal health diaries and journals to track exercise, diet, pain, mental health status, vital signs, etc.
    • Personal biometric devices such as fitness trackers and other wearable health technology
    • Remote health monitoring devices such as blood pressure cuffs and blood glucose meters
    • Prescriptions, medical procedures, and treatment for acute and chronic medical issues

    The patient would have all their health care data in a computable format and could arrange, manage, and control their data as they like. This capability would allow patients to share their data with people involved in their health care outside of military hospital and clinic care teams, such as family members, friends, and community providers.

    Think of EHRs and PHRs complementing each other, like how online banking integrates with personal finance software. Just as online banking offers a window into your account with a particular financial institution, your EHR provides access to your medical record and care team at a specific military hospital or clinic. Similar to banks enabling you to check balances and pay bills online, your EHR provides basic tools such as checking lab results and secure messaging with your health care team.

    Personal finance software integrates banking, investment, and other financial information from multiple accounts and provides specialized, more powerful tools so you can build a dynamic, real-time picture of your overall financial health. The PHR would do for patient health data what personal finance software does for financial data – empower patients to engage with their own information so they can proactively identify and address potential trends, problems, and opportunities for improvement.

    PHR and Readiness

    The PHR would be an incredibly useful tool to improve military health care outcomes and readiness. Among its benefits, the PHR would enable service members to:

    • Have one central, secure, and easy-to-access online location where they could view and track personal health and readiness data, such as exercise logs, immunizations, and body-mass index journals
    • Send their personal health and readiness data quickly and easily to providers or unit commanders to evaluate readiness for deployment
    • Share their personal health data with the provider or care team of their choice, be it DoD, VA, or community

    The PHR would also help improve health care access and outcomes for beneficiaries as care practice increasingly promotes remote appointments and health monitoring, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PHR would provide beneficiaries the ability to manage their consolidated longitudinal health information, track and monitor their own health status and conditions, and proactively engage with their care team for a timely intervention—all of which result in optimal health outcomes and prevention of unnecessary medical appointments.

    Moreover, in the future, a PHR-equipped beneficiary testing positive for COVID-19 with a community provider could upload their results into their PHR and alert their military medical care team. This capability would lessen the burden on military medical providers during any health crisis, not just the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The PHR would help providers, too. The pivot from a facility- and team-dependent model to a patient-empowered, self-regulating model would free providers and care teams to more fully and easily engage with their patients, improving overall care.

    We MHS providers have the duty to meet patients where they are – which is at home and online using personal digital health data management tools. It’s our job to provide tools that empower them to understand and use their personal health data securely and effectively. In the years to come, the DoD/VA joint PHR will provide these capabilities and help maintain and improve force readiness.

    U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Hae Kyung (Amy) Park, Ph.D., is lead for digital patient engagement at the Defense Health Agency Connected Health branch.



    Date Taken: 12.16.2020
    Date Posted: 11.24.2020 12:35
    Story ID: 383686

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