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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Medical Journal Praises VA Electronic Health Record

April 6, 2009

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“The patient computer system at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center makes me feel extra comfortable about getting my medical care here. No matter what clinic I go to when, they can pull my records up and make sure everything is going smoothly, and that I am receiving the right treatment,” said veteran Clayton Murphy (above right) with Hardeep Singh, M.D., M.P.H., MEDVAMC general medicine staff physician and a patient safety clinical investigator. The Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) has allowed the MEDVAMC to dramatically progress in its management and utilization of patient information. The patient directly benefits from the greater accuracy, consistency, and speed the system has brought about. Photo by Bobbi Gruner


WASHINGTON (April 6, 2009) – A recent study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine singles out the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for its successful implementation of a comprehensive system of electronic health records.

The study’s authors, led by Dr. Ashish K. Jha of Harvard University, noted that VA’s use of electronic health records has significantly enhanced the quality of patient care.  They also found that only 1.5 percent of U.S. hospitals have comprehensive electronic health records; adding VA hospitals to the analyses doubled that number.

“VA hospitals have used electronic health records for more than a decade with dramatic associated improvements in clinical quality,” the study’s authors wrote.

VA clinicians began using computerized patient records in the mid-1990s for everything from recording examinations by doctors to displaying results of lab tests and x-rays.  Patient records are available 100 percent of the time to VA health care workers, compared to 60 percent when VA relied on paper records.

Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA’s under secretary for health, said VA has “one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated electronic systems” for patient records in the nation.

“VA’s electronic health record system has largely eliminated errors stemming from lost or incomplete medical records, making us one of the safest systems in the health care industry,” Kussman said.

The authors of the NEJM article are the latest to praise VA for its technology and commitment to patient safety.  In 2006, VA received the prestigious “Innovations in American Government” Award from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for its advanced electronic health records and performance measurement system.