Military's Electronic Health Record Implementation Frustrates Lawmakers

Military's Electronic Health Record Implementation Frustrates Lawmakers
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May 1, 2018

The Military Health System (MHS) continues to undergo big changes regarding the delivery and administration of services. One of several long anticipated components of the future health system is an electronic health record (EHR) system called Genesis. DoD is working with Cerner, Leidos, and Accenture for development and implementation of the project.

The EHR system is being tested and touted as a means to more effectively deliver health care to patients while also facilitating simpler information sharing between military clinics, hospitals, and the broader TRICARE and VA networks.

While a system update certainly sounds like something to look forward to, early adopters and testers are suggesting the transition is not as seamless as it should be. Tom Philpott reported in early March the new off-the-shelf system is only accepting the transfer of minimal patient data from the current DoD AHLTA legacy system.

Clearly, we are still in the early stages of adopting and using what should ultimately be a very beneficial system. However, it's been three years since the Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract was signed, and lawmakers are frustrated implementation isn't moving along faster or more successfully.

In preparation for the FY 2019 budget, the Subcommittee on Defense of the Senate Appropriations Committee recently held a hearing on the Defense Health Program. Subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) kicked off the hearing by expressing his interest in getting feedback from the witnesses, who included three service surgeons general and the Defense Healthcare Management System's (DHMS) executive officer, on the challenges and progress of EHR implementation.

Stacy Cummings, program executive officer of DHMS, explained further expansion of Genesis will resume in 2019. There are four initial test locations, all of which completed full deployment of the new system as of last year. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society analytics are being used to evaluate the initial sites and provide constructive feedback and best practices moving forward. All four scored above the national average as of last year.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) took the hearing as an opportunity to point out some of the disappointing aspects of Genesis so far, to include misguided patient referrals. Her comments assured the implementation process would be subject to a very critical eye from her and her colleagues in Congress.

Surgeon General of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Ediger, made it clear the services are fully committed to MHS changes, including the successful adoption of Genesis. Attaining new efficiencies across the MHS is the ultimate goal.

Full deployment of Genesis within DoD systems is on track for 2022. Once completely operational, Cummings stated Genesis will be the largest EHR system in the world. Stay tuned - we'll provide more updates on the VA's EHR progress as FY 2019 budget talks continue.