CHCS II is dead; long live AHLTA!

The Defense Department’s $1.2 billion health care information system got a new name Monday.

From now on, the Composite Health Care System II (CHCS II) is to be called AHLTA. DOD officials said AHLTA stands for Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application, however, the system should simply be known by the acronym.

The change was announced in a ceremony at the National Naval Medical Center. With Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and other top officials on hand, Assistant Defense Secretary William Winkenwerder said “this new health care information system called AHLTA” is a major accomplishment in military medicine.

Later, in a press conference, Winkenwerder acknowledged that the new system was CHCS II, only renamed. In fact, CHCS II has been under development since 1998 and has yet to be deployed to about 40 percent of DOD health care facilities worldwide.

Winkenwerder said he did not like the CHCS II name because it suggested that the system was not No. 1. AHLTA, which will hold the health records of 9.2 million military personnel, family members and retirees, will be one of the largest and most advanced health information technology systems.

AHLTA is accessible from a laptop used in the Iraqi desert to a large military medical center. The same system and its contents will be available to military medical personnel worldwide.

Winkenwerder pointed out that AHLTA will be a companion to the Department of Veterans Affairs VISTA health information system. The two departments are increasingly exchanging digital health records on the people treated at their medical facilities.

One of AHLTA’s distinctive features is its support for structured notes on patients’ conditions and treatments. When a doctor or nurse enters notes in a medical record, the person is presented with options and can avoid typing much of the information.

Records created with structured notes, instead of raw text, are much easier to search through for information about patterns of disease, treatment effectiveness, possible bioterrorism incidents, said Col. Bart Harmon, a physician and AHLTA program manager.

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