Unified Electronic Medical Records!

More good news:

“President Obama announced plans on Thursday to computerize the medical records of veterans into a unified system, a move that is expected to ease the now-cumbersome process that results in confusion, lost records and bureaucratic delays.

Medical information will flow directly from the military to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system. At present, veterans must hand carry their medical records to Veterans Affairs’ facilities once they leave active-duty service. The Veterans Affairs system has a backlog of 800,000 disability claims, which means that veterans typically wait six months for decisions on their cases.

The task of creating a unified system will be handled by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The undertaking has repeatedly confounded the two agencies in the past, and it remains unclear how long the project will take and how much it will cost. (…)

Mr. Obama also voiced support for a measure that would allow Congress to approve the money for veterans’ medical care one year in advance. Congress has been routinely late in passing the bill that finances the Department of Veterans Affairs, a delay that hampers medical care for veterans and makes planning difficult. (…)

Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that modernizing medical records and allowing the two systems — military and veterans affairs — to talk to each other would have a dramatic effect on care.

Recently, Mr. Rieckhoff said, a Veterans Affairs doctor told him he had encountered a soldier with a brain injury, an amputation and a septic leg. The doctor had no idea how the man had been hurt because he did not have a complete file, he said.

“If you are a wounded service member, you have no continuity through the system,” Mr. Rieckhoff said on Thursday.”

This is really important. In a world in which medical records can be stored electronically, there’s no excuse for veterans, especially wounded veterans, having to trudge around taking their files from one office to another. There’s even less of an excuse if it delays their getting the care they need.

One of the things I minded about the Bush administration was that they didn’t seem at all interested in trying to get government to work better. Unfortunately, this was dwarfed by little things like torture, starting unnecessary wars, and defying the law, but still. Likewise, this was, unfortunately, not at the top of my reasons for supporting Obama, but his legislation always included a lot of good, workmanlike ways of making things work better, and I imagined he’d do the same as President. I’m so glad he is.