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Electronic health records on our wing’s horizon

NEW CASTLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Del. -- Next month the 166th Medical Group will begin to change the way medical paperwork is stored and accessed.

In January Airmen start training on the scanning systems that will convert hard-copy health records into electronic format.

"The goal is to have all health records electronic by Sept. 30, 2015," said Lt. Col. Robin Pollock, medical administrative officer, 166th MDG, with protocols instituted to protect the confidential medical data.

This change will impact record keeping from the inception of an Airman's career through their retirement, eventually including the transfer of their records to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

Airmen and medical units will see the results of this transformation in tangible ways. One key benefit is that records will be available globally.

"For example, if they [Airmen] have to go to Dover Air Force Base for medical treatment, they will not have to hand-carry their health records," said Pollock. "And when Airmen come back from Basic Training they will have a controlled [electronic] medical record available," which the wing's medical group can review at any time.

In addition, Pollock said that while Airmen are TDY for training or operating at deployed locations, the distant medical units will be able to enter new medical information into the electronic record and the updates become almost instantly available to the home medical unit.

A change base medical personnel will see as Airmen visit a military medical professional in the base clinic. Rather than hand-carrying their records from one medical care provider to another during a clinic visit during a unit training assembly, each medical expert will be able to pull up the patient's records at their office computer.

Plenty of benefits will result from the change to electronic records for the 166th MDS and for unit Airmen, said 1st Lt. Mark Rutt, health services administrator.

First, electronic records will reduce the need for storage space.

Second, it will help eliminate the use of paper, toner, energy to run copier equipment, and time for staff to copy records.

Third, it will bring speed and ready access of records to all Air Force medical units, and eventually will improve the process to obtain disability benefits upon retirement.

Fourth, the integrity of the records are maintained, with complete records available to medical professionals.

"This electronic format brings integrity to the records, minimizing the chances of a misplaced or lost document," said Rutt.

To facilitate the scanning process, the National Guard Bureau has provided two temporary technicians to the base. The process will occur without any action required by the wing's more than 1,000 Airmen.

The transition to electronic health records is occurring across the U.S. military.

In 2013 the Army National Guard began streamlining the transfer of information in a Soldier's medical file between the individual, the National Guard, Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Active duty troops have already experienced the results of using electronic health records.

According to Health.mil, the official website of the Military Health System and the Defense Health Agency, the DoD's Electronic Health Record is an enterprise-wide clinical information management system that provides secure online access to active duty Service members, retirees and their beneficiaries' health care records.

The development of the military's EHR is directly related to a presidential directive issued in 1997 that focused on and reinforced the need for a centralized, longitudinal patient record.