The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed a new rule making it easier for the VA to share patient records with community healthcare providers, health plans, governmental agencies and other entities participating in health information exchanges.

The proposed rule, published on Friday in the Federal Register for public comment, is meant to ensure that more HIE community partners can have access to VA medical records at the point of care.

“While an estimated three out of four veterans enrolled in VA’s healthcare system also seek medical care in the community, HIE community partners’ requests for their VA health records must frequently be denied because VA does not have a consent on file, and many HIE community partners therefore either must delay care to veterans or provide treatment to veterans without having the benefit of reviewing the veteran’s full medical history,” according to the rule.

However, the VA contends that a new interpretation of a longstanding regulation—38 U.S.C. 73320— to “permit disclosure to an HIE community partner pursuant to the partner’s attestation regarding written consent, would uphold veterans’ right to privacy” and “facilitate modern requirements for sharing patient records.”

Also See: New Hampshire HIE links to VA to serve veterans

In the rule, HIE community partners are defined as healthcare providers, health plans, governmental agencies providing benefits, or other persons or entities with whom the VA shares patients’ vital medical information according to nationally recognized standards.

As part of its efforts to implement a new Cerner electronic health record to replace its legacy EHR system, the VA is working with the White House’s Office of American Innovation to figure out how to achieve interoperability with community providers in the private sector.

The agency will accept public comments on the proposed rule until March 20.

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