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Military Health System

Joint Health Information Exchange Allows Access to Vital Information

Image of MHS non-active-duty service member beneficiaries can opt out of having their medical information accessed by providers in the national health exchange partner networks. Here’s how. Lisa Clark, a Pay it Forward team member from Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms, shows Brooke Army Medical Center case managers how to input data into the MHS GENESIS system at BAMC, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 22, 2022. Pay it Forward team members come from sites that have implemented MHS GENESIS to help with the transition to the new system. (Photo by Lori Newman, Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs)

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If you get sick, ill or injured, your past medical records may contain critical information that could help a doctor save your life.

And even when there is no emergency, full access to medical histories – like allergies, lab results, or drug prescriptions – is essential for doctors to be able to provide top-notch health care.

Military Health System beneficiaries have the benefit of being included in the joint health information exchange, a secure gateway launched in 2020 to connect health information systems from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other federal entities with each other and with private sector partners.

This exchange allows all MHS health care providers and other partners to access specific patient health information that may be helpful when providing care.

The joint HIE data is highly secure. The exchange complies with the most rigorous privacy and security standards to ensure your information is only accessed by the medical professionals who need it.

Access to the information can improve the quality of care, especially when beneficiaries receive health care from outside the MHS network. The joint HIE is a way for those non-MHS providers to learn about their patient's medical history and make informed decisions for care, said Air Force Col. Jeffrey Ford, chief of enterprise coordination at the Defense Health Agency.

"The joint HIE brings together all Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Coast Guard health information under a single joint gateway," said Crystal Baum, the joint HIE product owner at the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Office.

"So, when a provider from the private sector needs a given patient's data, they would query the joint HIE to get that data.

The joint HIE allows the private sector a single access point to DOD/VA/USCG data, she added.

'like an intermediary between the joint HIE and the partners in the broader network."

Providers who have a complete view of a patient's health history are better able to make informed decisions about the patient's care plan, especially during emergency situations, said Baum.

This could prove particularly important in the event of an accident when the patient may be unconscious, for example. Being part of the national health care exchange means the provider treating the unconscious beneficiary can query the data they need from the network if they're a participating partner.

What Information Is Shared?

The national network of exchange partners provides secure access to the clinical information of more than 120 million patients nationwide.

Anyone who has been treated in a military hospital or clinic in the last 20 years has a medical record that is accessible to DOD and VA providers, as well as all private-sector partners participating in the joint HIE and the national health care exchange partner network.

The information ranges from drug prescriptions and allergies to illnesses, lab results, vaccines, past medical procedures, and clinical notes.

Opting Out

Active duty service members are required to keep their medical records accessible to the joint HIE. But for other MHS beneficiaries, it is optional.

Despite the benefits, family members and other non-active-duty beneficiaries who don't want their health care information shared with providers outside MHS can opt out of it by completing an opt-out letter and mailing it to DHA headquarters.

Beneficiaries should keep in mind that choosing to opt out will prevent clinicians from electronically accessing their health care information through the partner exchange networks for any reason, even in case of emergency, said Ford. This means providers may not have access to life-saving information.

If beneficiaries who previously opted out decide to opt back in, they can do so by completing an opt-in letter and mailing it to DHA. Doing this supersedes any previous opt-out request and reinstates beneficiaries' participation in the exchange networks, confirming their medical information can be accessed by medical providers participating in the network.

For more information, talk to your health care provider, or access the resources on the TRICARE website and on Health.mil.

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Last Updated: June 01, 2022
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