The Navy scrambled last month to meet a deadline for scanning and electronically transferring service treatment records to the Veterans Affairs Department by the start of 2014. The process involved an interim sole source contract and system tests during the last two weeks of December and into the New Year, Nextgov has learned.
The $5 million, 18-month sole source contract, awarded Dec. 19 to Anacomp Inc. of Chantilly, Va., calls for the company to scan 7,000 treatment records per month for discharged Navy and Marine personnel, with 13 million individual pages to be scanned in the first year of the contract.
VA and the Defense Department agreed in February that Defense would be bulk scanning all such treatment records by Dec. 31 for electronic transfer to VA.
A service treatment record contains all medical information on an active duty service member, from his or her first physical examination upon entering service through their final physical before discharge from service, along with clinical notes on all consultations and treatments received in the interim. VA needs complete treatment records to evaluate disability claims. Currently it takes the department 125 days to retrieve STRs from Defense, extending the time required to process a claim.
Navy hospitals and clinics will pack and mail the treatment records to Anacomp, rather than to the Navy Bureau of Medicine, or BUMED, surgery site in St. Louis — which is co-located with the VA National Records Center — as originally planned, a BUMED spokesman told Nextgov.
The Anacomp contract is only an interim, short-term solution while BUMED develops a long-term contract, the Navy Fleet Logistics Center disclosed in a Nov. 3 justification for that contract. BUMED started work on the requirement to digitize service treatment records in May 2013, a move the Fleet Logistics Center described as a “complex challenge.”
The project has had to “at a minimum, develop the integrated processes between the Navy and VA, define the business rules associated with those processes, determine the required infrastructure (building space, scanners, etc.), resolve security issues, and assess the IT solution necessary” to meet the January deadline for electronic transfer of treatment records to VA.
Since treatment records contain protected personal and health information, anyone handling those records needs to have completed a National Agency Check with Law and Credit, a security clearance process, and the contractor must adhere to federal standards for handling such information, the Fleet Logistics Center said.
To ensure BUMED oversight, the scanning facility needed to be located in the Washington area, as BUMED has limited travel funds. Only Anacomp, which already scans benefits claims for VA, met all these requirements, the Fleet Logistics Center said.
The Navy required a secure website be built to manage and track shipments of records. Each and every digitized page of an individual record must also include metadata identifiers – first and last names and social security numbers – to locate them after they are scanned into the Healthcare Artifact and Image Management Solution, or HAIMS, which was originally developed to store, manage and provide access to medical imagery, and now is used by Defense to transfer records to VA.
Paul Ross, a BUMED spokesman, said the command had set up a “tiger team” that developed a scanning solution and a HAIMS interface, which were shared with Anacomp after the contract award. Ross said the Navy was also able to leverage processes set up by Anacomp to ensure scanned images can be viewed by VA.
After the award, the agencies spent two weeks performing test scans with the contractor, and scanned images were successfully uploaded into HAIMS, including the metadata test, Ross said. The secure website to track shipments was also set up in that time frame, and quality of scanning and metadata was tested by HAIMS engineers, he added.
As of Jan. 1, all treatment records for Navy and Marine personnel separating or retiring are sent to Anacomp, and the company is ready to scan the records.
Pentagon spokeswomen for the Defense Health Agency have not responded to a mid-December query and a follow up on Jan. 3 about whether or not the Army and Air Force are in compliance with the agreement to electronically transfer service treatment records to VA as of this January. The Fleet Logistics Center contract justification document said, “Both the Army and Air Force are establishing central cells near the VA site in St. Louis where contractors will provide scanning services.”