Military Health System seeks options for AHLTA

The Military Health System is actively pursuing alternatives to AHLTA, its electronic medical record system.

MHS officials have already received the recommendations of Booz Allen Hamilton, the consultant it commissioned to study whether the Defense Department should switch to a system that more closely resembles the Veterans Affairs Department’s Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA).

The results of the study have yet to be released, but Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs said “we are going to make a call on this” within a matter of days.

At least part of that study involved the feasibility of developing a joint DOD/VA inpatient EMR, a Booz Allen executive said.

In a statement released July 22, Stephen Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, said, “There is a strong feeling here and at the VA that the best approach is a convergent evolution of the two systems. This approach optimizes the strengths of both systems while creating interoperability that will drive more universal information exchange.”

The effort to find alternatives to AHLTA can be traced to a Webhall discussion MHS hosted June 20. Health providers posted more than 150 comments about AHLTA on the MHS Web site, and the majority were negative.

MHS officials addressed some of the participants’ concerns in a PDF document posted online. With regard to complaints about the system’s slowness, MHS officials said they were “doing everything possible to improve the users’ experience by addressing the speed, reliability and usability issues of AHLTA.”

They said their effort to address system performance includes standardizing desktop interfaces, adding memory and processing capacity to computers, optimizing queries to the database, and working with local operators on network issues.

Other problems include patient records becoming stuck erroneously at inpatient status in AHLTA. MHS officials attributed such issues to the system’s continuing reliance on the Composite Health Care System for the patient discharge function.

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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