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An interim final rule published Oct. 20 by the Department of Veterans Affairs (76 Fed. Reg. 65133) lifts a restriction prohibiting the VA from exchanging certain medical information about veterans with the Department of Defense.
The VA said current department rules impose a too narrow restriction on medical information it can share with DoD, saying federal law allows for broader sharing of veterans' health data.
The VA further said the current restriction on data exchange limited its ability to fully realize the benefits of electronic health records.
Specifically, a federal law governing how veterans' health care data can be shared prohibits the disclosure of VA medical records containing information regarding the “identity, diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment of any patient or subject which are maintained in connection with the performance of any program or activity (including education, training, treatment, rehabilitation or research) relating to drug abuse, alcoholism or alcohol abuse, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, or sickle cell anemia.”
However, the VA noted in the interim final rule, the law provides an exception for exchanging records among VA components for the purposes of furnishing health care to veterans or determining benefits.
The VA said the interim final rule, which was effective immediately, would clear the way for the department to share “important medical information” about veterans with DoD.
“Our need to share this information is critical to the health and well-being of our veterans, particularly those whose records are transferred electronically between DoD and VA for medical care,” according to the interim final rule.
Comments on the rule are due Dec. 19.
The interim final rule is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-20/pdf/2011-27155.pdf .
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