By Jane Gervasoni, Public Affairs OfficeMarch 12, 2014
Military families value their electronic health record system and are grateful that they no longer have to take paper copies of their health records with them each time they move. Now the U.S. Army Public Health Command is training veterinary personnel on a similar system for government-owned animals and privately-owned animals belonging to military families.
The new system is called the Remote Online Veterinary Record or ROVR for short. The system will offer Army veterinary service personnel worldwide new methods for recording and maintaining veterinary clinical information about the animals they treat.
"ROVR is a secure, Web-based application that provides the means to electronically record, store, retrieve and transmit the elements of veterinary clinical encounters at all levels of care," according to Col. Erik Torring, deputy commander for veterinary services at the USAPHC. "It is a state-of-the-art means to collect, manage, analyze and report data and information rapidly and accurately to all levels of the Department of Defense."
The Army provides veterinary health services for all components of the DOD and to other governmental agencies with complete veterinary medical and surgical care for all government-owned animals including those belonging to other governmental agencies such as the Secret Service, Border Patrol, Customs Service and the Transportation Security Administration.
Currently veterinary personnel document their clinical findings and other statistical data using hard copy records, spreadsheets and other databases. These methods lack the ability to encrypt data, don't allow access by all veterinary personnel, and are generally hard to manage, according to Michael Tackett, U.S. Army Medical Information Technology Center Veterinary Services Systems Management program manager.
"The DOD veterinary services community operates in approximately 144 sites worldwide," explained Tackett. "The new system will be capable of encrypting data and providing worldwide access for veterinary service personnel in theater or garrison."
ROVR was designed to address many of the concerns of the veterinary community and is being trained and fielded throughout the USAPHC regional commands across the world through April.
"Access to this system is based on a user's common access card," explained Lt. Col. Kay Burkman, veterinary staff officer at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. "ROVR will create patient records that can be transferred and shared, with access worldwide using the CAC."
Burkman has been involved with this project since it was first conceived in 2005. She has spent the last 2 1/2 years working primarily on program development, beta testing and devising training.
"Every clinic is different, so we tailor our training to meet the needs of those using the system," she explained. "A facility exclusively treating government-owned animals will have slightly different needs than one that treats primarily privately-owned animals.
"In February, we trained veterinary treatment facility personnel from Aberdeen Proving Ground (Md.) and Carlisle Barracks (Pa.) on how to use this system," Burkman explained. "We have already trained veterinary personnel at more than 100 VTFs including Joint Base San Antonio, and veterinary personnel have been very enthusiastic about ROVR's capabilities."
The system has a lot of benefits for VTF users as well as pet owners according to Burkman. ROVR even has more functionality than the current electronic health system for military beneficiaries, she said.
One of the biggest benefits to pet owners is that the information stored in the system can be transferred to any military VTF around the world. This will make a difference for those who take pets with them when they have a permanent change of station.
The same is true for military working dogs and other government-owned animals such as the caisson horses used at Fort Belvoir, Va. Information on the animals' past and present health will be available to any veterinary provider with a CAC.
"ROVR provides the functionalities necessary to consolidate the 144 independent veterinary treatment facilities into a global practice with the capability to provide standardized, evidence-based veterinary care to any animal, anywhere," Burkman explained.
In addition, ROVR will be able to help track animal disease trends, clinic inventory, manage appointments, provide billing statements, track drug interactions, generate rabies and veterinary health certificates and support clinical documentation of patient records.
Although the USAPHC is hosting the training, many veterinary services personnel, the DOD Veterinary Services Activity, the Defense Health Agency and DOD's Health Affairs contributed to the design of the system and are involved in the management of the system. These organizations, animals and owners will benefit from the information available in the system, according to Torring.
"The entire program including development, testing and fielding has been a huge team effort," said Tackett. "This is a partnership that will improve patient care by automating medical records and providing worldwide access from any CAC-enabled government computer."
ROVR still has some growing to do, but so far, design defects have been minimal and will be fixed once the system is fielded.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground, the veterinary clinic staff, which received training in February, is already using the new system in the VTF.
"Change is always challenging," said Carol Bossone, non-appropriated fund veterinarian at the clinic, "but this system seems to offer functionality that we have not had before. I am hopeful that the end result will be a valuable tool that is versatile, flexible and seamless."