NEW MILITARY E-HEALTH RECORD SYSTEM TO BEGIN AT FAIRCHILD
Next February, two months past a deadline set by Congress, Defense officials and industry partners will begin to field test a new military electronic health record system at a single site, the clinic-sized hospital on Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash.
Congressional overseers of this long-awaited capability aren’t upset by the missed December start at Fairchild, or by a rescheduling of e-health record launches at three larger base hospitals across the Pacific Northwest.
Credit that calm to a wellspring of optimism on Capitol Hill over the new e-health records system called MHS GENESIS. Its acquisition team is seen as making all the right early moves to ensure a successful “wave” rollout of the $4.3 billion project across the entire Military Healthcare System (MHS), including sickbays on ships at sea, by target year 2022.
“Re-planning” the initial site deployments, confirmed this week by Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for the Defense Healthcare Management System, is drawing praise rather than sounding alarms.
“It’s very responsible,” said a congressional staff member who was briefed on changed initial launch dates. “We want a good system. They identified some process issues they’re working on. They’re taking the right amount of time. And instead of rolling out a broken system, they’re going to roll out a good system we have high hopes for. Everything we’re hearing about it is very promising.”
That was far from the prevailing view in Congress by May of 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel shifted responsibility for developing a single e-health record system from his health affairs office to Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition. Hagel even halted solicitation of bids from commercial e-record vendors, telling lawmakers, “I didn't think we knew what the hell we were doing.”
Kendall quickly created the DoD Healthcare Management System Modernization Program to oversee development of an e-health record that could handle military unique needs, absorb data from several legacy systems and most importantly use off-the-shelf commercial software and technology.
The program team organized groups of military clinicians by specialty to review existing commercial software and agree on standardizing workflows across the health system, attacking the way-we’ve-always-done-it mindset of Army, Navy and Air Force medical departments. Kendall’s acquisition team appears to be succeeding where the health affairs office failed in part because it forced its client, the military health system, to set reasonable requirements rather than pile them on based on service-unique habits.
The effort was helped by the simultaneous creation of the Defense Health Agency, which set out to streamline health care delivery operations across separate Army, Navy and Air Force medical departments.
In July 2015, the program office awarded a $4.3 billion, 10-year contract to Leidos, Inc., and industry partners to deliver and support a modern interoperable electronic health record system for 9.4 million beneficiaries and 205,000 medical personnel and staff.
The Leidos Partnership for Defense Health, as the vendor is called, will use two popular commercial systems -- Cerner Millennium for medical records and Henry Schein's Dentrix Enterprise for dental – modified to interface with data from DoD legacy systems. These include the medical treatment records of ALHTA; pharmacy, radiology and laboratory orders gathered by the Composite Health Care System, and clinical information of Essentris as it was customized to support military inpatient care.
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