Department of Veterans Affairs Database Will Facilitate Gene Research

On Thursday, Department of Veterans Affairs officials announced a genomics research program that will use a database in an effort to perform health and wellness studies, United Press International reports.

Details of Program

According to VA, the Million Veteran Program will consolidate into a single database information on:

  • Genes;
  • Health;
  • Lifestyle; and
  • Military service (United Press International, 5/5).

The database will be used to carry out studies to identify which genes are associated with certain medical issues.

According to VA, the program could lead to innovations in disease screening and diagnosis, and to more personalized therapy (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 5/6).

Privacy, Security Efforts

Participation in the program will be voluntary. Veterans who do participate will be required to:

  • Fill out a medical history questionnaire;
  • Permit access to their health care records; and
  • Provide a blood sample.

The information in the database will be de-identified, and only authorized researchers will be able to access the database, according to VA (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 5/6).

Other privacy and security measures of the database include:

  • Labeling blood samples with a bar code, rather than with personal information (Healthcare IT News, 5/6);
  • Requiring researchers to access the information through VA's secure Genomic Informatics System for Integrated Science;
  • Mandating that researchers obtain approval for their work from a VA oversight panel (Anderson, GovInfoSecurity, 5/6); and
  • Withholding from researchers the names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of veterans (Healthcare IT News, 5/6).

Looking Ahead

The department has opened enrollment sites in nine cities across the country and plans to expand the program nationwide within one year (Modern Healthcare, 5/6).

VA officials are seeking to recruit up to one million participants for the program within five to seven years (GovInfoSecurity, 5/6).

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