Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Defense launches personal health record application test

Defense launches personal health record application test

By Bob Brewin, bbrewin@nextgov.com 12/08/08

The Defense Department began testing an application on Friday that allows soldiers, veterans and their families to manage their personal health records online using programs provided by Google and Microsoft.

Comment on this article in The Forum.The department's Military Health System launched the feature, called MiCare, at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., where patients there can use either the patient-controlled health records application developed by Google, called Google Health, or Microsoft's health records application, Microsoft HealthVault, MHS said.

Both the health-records software tools provide online access to a variety of information for patients, including a list of their medications; allergies, lab and radiology results; data on past visits; upcoming appointments; and inpatient/outpatient documentation. The tools pull much of the information from the military health records stored in the Armed Forces Health Technology Longitudinal Application.

Patients at Madigan also will be able to store records managed by civilian health care providers, insurers and pharmacies. HealthVault allows patients to download data from health and fitness devices, such as pedometers (which measure how far an individual walks), peak flow meters (which measure how well air flows from lungs), blood pressure monitors and blood glucose monitors.

S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, said he is a "strong advocate" for personal health records because they "allow patients to take more responsibility for their health care needs and make patients and providers interactive partners in the health care encounter. I believe MiCare will empower our beneficiaries and significantly enhance both the quality and continuity of health care we provide."

Using the Internet to access health records will provide an advantage to military families who frequently move, said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president for Microsoft's health solutions group. "Providing one location to store and manage health data can make a significant impact on military families on the move, for retirees seeking care, and for family health managers left behind as a parent is called to duty," he said.

Sameer Samat, director of product management for Google Health, said, "Helping military service members organize all their personal health information in one secure and central location will ultimately help them better coordinate their care as they move locations."

The health information of beneficiaries will be protected under new guidelines developed by the Markle Foundation with the aid of Microsoft, Google and other vendors to establish the standards for keeping sensitive information private, MHS officials said. MHS said patients have complete control over who looks at the data and what information they see.

The Madigan project follows other pilot programs announced this fall by MHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to jump-start an effort to move all Americans to electronic personal health records.

This October, TRICARE, the nationwide health plan operated by MHS for 9.2 million active-duty and retired military personnel and their families for care provided outside military hospitals, and CMS signed an interagency agreement to test a personal health recordin South Carolina using a system provided by HealthTrio.

The pilot will allow Medicare beneficiaries, who also belong to TRICARE, to pull information from CMS and TRICARE systems into an online personal health record. CMS acting Administrator Kerry Weems called it a "major step forward" for the service and MHS because it will allow patients to combine information from multiple sources for more complete records.

Last month CMS tapped Google Health, HealthTrio, NoMoreClipboard.com and PassPortMD for a personal health record trial in Arizona and Utah, which is scheduled to start in early 2009.

Mike Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, said the Arizona and Utah pilots "will provide information and tools that will empower consumers to manage their health better . . . and provides beneficiaries with a choice of products to meet their individual needs."

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