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The Veterans Affairs Department has described how it will protect the information of veterans and military service members that it shares as part of the virtual lifetime electronic record (VLER) program.
The VLER program enables the electronic sharing of health, benefit, disability determination and administrative data with VA, Defense Department and participants in the nationwide health information network (NwHIN) Exchange.
VA published in the May 11 Federal Register a notice of a Privacy Act System of Records, in which federal agencies detail how they will manage personal information according to federal security requirements. Robust privacy and security safeguards can increase trust and confidence in health information exchange.
Among the VA’s privacy and security policies and practices to protect VLER data are:
1. Limit access to and use of databases to those persons whose official duties require it and have established security procedures to ensure that access is appropriately limited
2. Have information security officers and system data stewards review and authorize data access requests
3. Regulate data access with security software that authenticates users and requires individually unique codes and passwords
4. Provide information security training to all staff and instruct about individual responsibility for safeguarding data confidentiality
5. Restrict physical access to computer rooms housing databases to authorized staff and protected by a variety of security devices
•6. Protect transmissions of data with operational systems by software and hardware, such as firewalls, intrusion detection devices, encryption, and other security measures necessary as it travels across the VA network
7. Maintain copies of back-up computer files at off-site locations.
Many veterans and service members obtain treatment with private providers, and VA and DOD want to share their data to have a complete record to improve patient care. VA, DOD and private providers use the NwHIN standards and services to exchange data securely through the Internet.
VLER is currently being road tested in a number of pilots around the country and subsequently will have a national roll-out.