Health IT

New DOD health record looks to engage patients

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The initial rollout of the Pentagon's new commercial electronic health record system has begun, with full implementation set for 2022.

The MHS Genesis system, a $4.3 billion installation of the Cerner electronic health record software being implemented with an assist from integrator Leidos, is being tested in at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington. The award for the system was made in July 2015.

Stacy Cummings, program executive officer of the Defense Healthcare Management Systems, which led the acquisition, said she is "confident that MHS Genesis will transform health care delivery" throughout the military.

The rollout is set to move to other sites in the Pacific Northwest "as early as June," Cummings said on a call with reporters. The next initial operating capability sites are Oak Harbor (Wash.) Naval Hospital, the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., and the Bremerton (Wash.) Naval Hospital.

The Pacific Northwest sites were chosen for the first rollouts to have all the services represented, and to start with a smaller installation and training before expanding to more complex and challenging integrations, Cummings said. Additionally, she said, the military health facilities in the region enjoy a reputation for innovation.

MHS Genesis, when fully deployed in 2022, will serve a population of about 9.5 million patients at facilities around the world, from hospitals to ships at sea to battlefield medical stations.

Cummings said the Joint Legacy Viewer, developed by an interagency program office of the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs, will serve as the link between MHS Genesis and the multiple legacy systems operated by the armed forces as the rollout of the new system proceeds. Additionally, she said, it links data from MHS Genesis and the VA's health record system Vista.

Col. Margaret Carey, commander of the 92nd Medical Group at Fairchild, said the system was "streamlined and intuitive" and makes it easier for practitioners to access patient notes. She noted that it also proactively sends alerts that address potential patient safety concerns.

Carey said many of the problems being encountered by providers have to do with the lag between training in December of last year and the go-live date. Users have helpers at the ready to identify solutions during the rollout. The original schedule proposed a December rollout at Fairchild, but it was delayed.

Cummings said technical and configuration issues that didn't show up in training are handled on the spot by the Leidos team, and that things that require a technical fix are addressed "usually within hours or a day."

She also said the team was continuing to address some of the cybersecurity risks identified in a May 2016 oversight report from the DOD's Inspector General. "We have a very close coordination" between the vendor, the DOD CIO's office and other groups inside the DOD with skin in the game, Cummings said. And unlike commercial users of the Cerner record, the DOD has access to the source code in order to test for vulnerabilities.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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