Goodbye Paper Medical Records - VA St. Louis Health Care System
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VA St. Louis Health Care System


Goodbye Paper Medical Records


William Patterson (left), VISN 15 Director, registers for My HealtheVet. This web-based service allows veterans to take a more active role in managing their health and in making decisions related to their health care.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Maybe it is a little premature to announce the end of traditional paper medical records, but electronic medical records are changing the face of health care and the Department of Veterans Affairs is leading the way.  VA has been developing its electronic patient recordkeeping system for several decades and is setting the pace for the entire health care industry.

VistA—an acronym for Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture—is one of the world’s most sophisticated methods for keeping electronic health records. It is VA’s award-winning creation and it means more effective care and treatment for Veterans. For example, if one of your VA providers orders blood tests, any other VA provider can see the results. Before prescribing medication, a VA provider can look at your electronic “file,” see what other medications you take, and determine whether or not the new medication is a good choice. Another great benefit of an electronic medical file is patients in rural locations can have remote consultations with providers who are many miles away, giving you access to specialists without the time and trouble of traveling.

The electronic health record’s benefits do not stop with eliminating “written” records. Images including x-rays, scans, slides and photos also become a part of your electronic record and can be viewed by your VA providers. If you are an inpatient, the system electronically validates and documents your medications to ensure you receive the correct ones, in the correct dose, at the correct time. It even visually alerts staff if there is an error.

Another advantage of electronic recordkeeping is a dramatic decrease in the amount of paper required for each patient. Old-fashioned folders might have contained hundreds of pieces of paper for one hospital stay. Staff had to file each one and find space to archive the records for years. If providers needed to know something about your history, they had to flip through each piece of paper in your folder to find the information. Electronic records are also much more secure, as VA systems provide the highest possible level of privacy and protection.

“We are proud to be a leader in the use of the electronic medical record and we encourage all Veterans to embrace VA’s state-of-the-art technology. This innovative technology allows us to provide excellent health care and supports our use of telehealth,” said Rima Ann Nelson, VA St. Louis Health Care System director.

MyHealtheVet, for example, is a website that allows you to take a more active role in managing your health and in making decisions related to your health care. It allows you to track your health status, refill prescriptions and receive reminders about health events.
Even though some paper documents may be around for the foreseeable future, VA providers and patients have access to high-tech tools today that are leading the way for the rest of the health care industry. Join VISN 15 Director Dr. William Patterson and sign up for your myHealtheVet account by visiting


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