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HealtheLink executive director Daniel Porreca has a dad who fought in World War II; he’s now 91-years old. And his medical care reflects the path of many veteran patients: an often disjointed dance between the private sector of primary care providers and specialists, and the public realm of the VA.
At least for Porreca’s father, though, this disconnect is being remedied. On Tuesday the VA announced its agreement to bolster provider power by aligning with HealtheLink, Western New York’s clinical information exchange and a part of the Western New York Beacon Community. The compact grants the area’s VA, private practice and hospital physicians the ability to access the health records of their veteran patients. Officials from both sides are looking to the agreement to heighten care coordination and smooth the path a veteran often treads between private and public care.
Government Health IT Contributor Kate Spies spoke with Porreca about the changes this agreement will bring to the veterans in Western New York, why the VA selected his particular community, and why this project might bump over roadblocks along the way – but in the end, will be absolutely worth it.
Q: What are some of the main ways you see the HealtheLink/ VA agreement improving veteran care in Western New York?
A: In coordination of care, the ability for doctors who are in the VA to effectively get information on the veterans who are seen outside the VA and vice versa, it’s very hard to do today. I’ll give you an example: my dad is a 91-year old World War II veteran who has his primary care doctor in the private sector, but he goes to the VA for medication. In the past, it was very difficult for the doctors who are treating my dad – with one in the VA and one in his primary care doctor’s office – to communicate in order to ensure consistency and safety in their treatment. So what we’re doing here is opening up the roadways and the information highway between the public sector and the private sector.
Q: How do you think this VA/HealtheLink collaboration will enhance the Western New York Beacon Community?
A: One of the things we said we were going to do as part of the Beacon program is to expand the number of data sources. And our primary care doctors in our community really pointed to the VA data as a really important piece of information that they were missing. So as part of our overall Beacon effort, I think this was a great win for us. It will be a great win as that data flows efficiently and effectively in electronic form.
Q: As you look towards implementation and trying to tie together these forms of public and private health, what roadblocks or challenges will HealtheLink have to face?
A: It never goes as fast as we want it to. We’re paving and creating new highways; it’s not like we’re taking things off the shelf that we’ve done a thousand times, and implementing it one more time. So there are always things that pop up and need to be worked through. But at the end of the day, this is going to be so fantastic – for the physicians, for the community, and most of all, for the veterans that have served our country. We can allow this information flow so they can get better treatment.