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For the past 5 years, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense have been working to exchange health care data and create electronic records for veterans and active duty personnel. Such exchange is seen as a means of reducing the billions of dollars that the departments spend annually on health care services and making such data more readily accessible to those treating our country's approximately 13 million veterans, military personnel, and dependents. This is especially critical when military personnel are engaged in conflicts all over the world, and their health records can reside at multiple locations. GAO has reported on these efforts several times, most recently in September 2002. At the request of the Subcommittee, GAO is updating its observations on the departments' efforts, focusing on (1) the reported status of the ongoing, one-way exchange of data, the Federal Health Information Exchange, and (2) progress toward achieving the longer term two-way exchange under the HealthePeople (Federal) initiative.

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