WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has made troops’ health records electronically available to the Veterans Affairs Department to speed up the adjudication of disability claims, a DOD health information technology official said.
Now in place for service members who have separated or discharged from the military since Jan. 1, the Health Artifact and Image Management Solution, or HAIMS, electronic system makes certified military service treatment records automatically available to VA to determine disability benefits when a claim is filed, said David M. Bowen, director of health information technology at the Defense Health Agency.
“We made a commitment that the HAIMS interface would be operational on Jan. 1, and we met that commitment,” Bowen told American Forces Press Services.
Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Richard Thomas, director of health care operations and chief medical officer at DHA, testified to Congress yesterday on the new system before the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. DOD members worked with VA to help determine what steps could be taken to alleviate the disability claims backlog, he said.
“We recognized DOD needed to assist the VA by providing additional data on the benefits side, so we put teams together and they came up with the solution [to] generate an electronic service treatment record document,” Bowen explained.
The result was an interface from DOD to VA through HAIMS. DOD’s HAIMS already existed for military medical clinicians and has been sharing electronic data with Veterans Health Administration providers before it was tied to Veterans Benefits Administration, officials said.
The electronic records shared between DOD and VA also allow VA hospitals to access the records. “There are lots of fields of data flowing back and forth,” Bowen said of the agencies’ collaboration. “We probably share more data than any other health care organizations in the world.”
Complete medical records are kept on patients while under DOD care and also include information that comes from the commercial sector. The electronic records are “readily available and accessible by our DOD clinicians, any time, anywhere in the world,” Bowen said. Digitizing the full record at the time of a service member’s separation provides VA with “a history of the service member’s care,” and is as up-to-date as the last medical appointment, he noted.
HAIMS has distinct advantages for DOD, Bowen said. “It enhances our ability to provide additional information to our clinicians to help them better care for our patients. The dimension around having all the data more and more in an electronic format and being able to move that all around the world from assignment to assignment is also very beneficial.”
Bowen said the DOD-VA interface represents two organizations working together collectively to solve a problem and coming up with a solution, a timetable and a way to put the solution in place on schedule, benefitting both of the departments.
“I think we’re going to make life much easier for Veterans Benefits Administration staff to see DOD-specific health care data on our service members to help them with the process of adjudicating a claim.”