Military News

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ANG begins digitizing Service Treatment Records

by Master Sgt. Marvin R. Preston
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs

5/19/2015 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- In line with President Barack Obama's Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record Initiative, the office of the Air National Guard Surgeon General has recently begun the process that will revolutionize how Air National Guard health records are stored.

The ANG SG team's transition plan to digitize paper medical records will meet a Department of Defense mandate and will allow records to follow military members when they separate or retire from the military and visit local Department of Veterans Affairs health centers.

A key component of this effort is the DOD Healthcare Artifacts and Image Management Solution, which will provide health care providers global access and awareness of artifacts and images generated during the health care delivery process.

"This project touches every Guardsman and affects their access to care and VA treatment," said Senior Master Sgt. Summer N. Brown, manager of Medical Readiness Operations at the Air National Guard Readiness Center. "The ANG Surgeon General has been working over the past two years to comply with the DOD mandate and with the assistance of Brig. Gen. Michael Taheri, [commander of the ANGRC]; an initiative was established to fund 89 medical groups with a full time National Guard day manpower equivalent to scan all paper records."

The Air Force Medical Operations Agency at Kelly Field, Texas, AFMOA Central Cell and 149th Medical Group, San Antonio, Texas, and the 59th Medical Treatment Facility, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, were all essential to the successful start of the project.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the military service departments, except the United States Coast Guard, stopped sending paper Service Treatment Records to the VA for separating or retiring service members. The military service departments, through the military treatment facility, scan completed and certified electronic STRs into the HAIMS. When the military service departments place the STR documentation into HAIMS, as the authoritative record, the military service departments will destroy the paper documentation.

"The Central Processing Cell has unique expertise and experience in the bulk scanning of Service Treatment Records, including those of government civilians and a small contingent of service members working the Air Force STR disposition program," said Lt. Col. Craig Lambert, deputy chief of the Health Benefits Division, Air Force Medical Operations Agency.  "The center provided one-on-one, bulk STR scanning training to medical personnel from all 89 ANG wings, over a three-month period to ensure that the standard followed at the [Central Processing Cell] is also followed at every ANG medical unit.  This training was crucial to establish competencies, eliminate variation and ensure efficiency of operations for the ANG."

The establishment of the process and its management took the work of several offices, agencies and multiple subject matter experts.

"The Air Force STR disposition process takes a team effort and having all Air Force components work together is in the best interest of service members and allows the VA to accomplish their mission to properly and timely adjudicate compensation, pension or claims," said Lambert.

The creation and implementation of the training curriculum was assigned to ANG personnel liaised to the Air Force STR Central Processing Cell.

Staff Sgt. Terri De Guzman, Guardsman from the 146th Medical Group, Channel Islands, California, the primary author of the training plan and Master Sgt. Katiria I. Sanchez, an instructor liaised from the 129th MG, Moffett Field, California, trained personnel representing each ANG medical group, in the correct procedures of HAIMS digitization.

"Now we can go seek care anywhere and have our information in one location and accessible to all medical facilities," said Sanchez. "This process will assist with expediting the amount of time it takes for medical records to be made available to the VA for our members who are seeking medical care and benefits.  If anything this is the best part of digitizing our medical records, it is taking care of our people."

Another benefit to digitizing records is the decreased cost of shipment to and from the STR Processing Cell. This eliminates the possibility of records being misplaced and vital information being inadvertently disclosed.

According to the 2012 Electronic Health Record DOD Factsheet the Department of Defense and VA share more health information than any two organizations in the nation. The continued improvements in information sharing and records portability will help improve the continuity of care for service members and veterans, help ensure that physicians have the most accurate medical history of a patient, and improve patient safety.

Key Benefits of HAIMS:

- Access point for DoD providers to view VA artifacts and images
- Population health and medical research for wounded warriors
- Mass scanning for Veterans Benefits Administration compensation and pension benefits determination
- Mass ingestion capability to external repositories
- Use of electronic STRs to initiate paperless disability benefits claims will streamline the claims adjudication process, reducing the likelihood of new claims from being added to the VA's disability claims backlog
- Reduced cost for shipping of records

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