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Obama Touts Military Digital Health Record Plan as Model

A new electronic medical records system for military personnel is meant to be a model for improving health care nationwide. Analysts discuss the program's cost and efficiency.

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    The president of the United States…


    Flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, President Obama today announced a new health records plan for the nation's military and its veterans.

    BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't receive the support that they've earned. It's time to change all that; it's time to give our veterans a 21st-century V.A.

    Under the leadership of Secretary Gates and Secretary Shinseki, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have taken a first step towards creating one unified lifetime electronic health record for members of our Armed Services that will contain their administrative and medical information from the day they first enlist to the day that they are laid to rest.


    The president said the more efficient system would prevent health care delays currently experienced by wounded veterans; 33,000 men and women have been injured in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Veterans now face a six-month backlog when filing disability claims at the Veterans Administration.


    Currently, there is no comprehensive system in place that allows for a streamlined transition of health records between DOD and the V.A., and that results in extraordinary hardship for an awful lot of veterans who end up finding their records lost, unable to get their benefits processed in a timely fashion.

    And that's why I'm asking both departments to work together to define and build a seamless system of integration with a simple goal: When a member of the Armed Forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local V.A. health center. Their electronic records will transition along with them and remain with them forever.


    The president has made it clear he wants to make electronic records a cornerstone of his national health care reform. A recent study showed fewer than 2 percent of U.S. hospitals have adopted comprehensive electronic record systems.

    The Pentagon and Veterans Affairs systems could serve as a model. Of the more than 23 million veterans in the United States, nearly 5.5 million sought health care at a V.A. facility last year.


    Now, this would represent a huge step towards modernizing the way health care is delivered and benefits are administered for our nation's veterans. It would cut through red tape and reduce the number of administrative mistakes. It would allow all V.A. sites access to a veteran's complete military medical record, giving them the information they need to deliver high-quality care.


    The president also said today his budget would increase funding for improving overall health for military personnel. That includes additional money for mental health screening in rural parts of the country and for more treatment for service people suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

    The White House plans to expand spending on Veterans Affairs by $25 billion over the next five years, pending approval from Congress.