The U.S. Coast Guard announced April 9 its intent to join with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in transitioning its service members’ and clinics’ health records to the MHS Genesis electronic health record (EHR) system.
DoD contracted with Cerner to roll out a massive new EHR system, MHS Genesis, across its vast system. DoD awarded a contract in the summer of 2015 to a consortium of Cerner, Leidos and Accenture Federal. The first deployment occurred at Fairchild Air Force Base two years later in February 2017.
The Coast Guard’s decision to “piggyback” on the new DoD system comes two years after the department cancelled an EHR modernization project with Epic, at a cost of about $60 million. In the interim, the Coast Guard continues to use a paper-based process to maintain health records at its 41 U.S. health clinics and 125 sick bays.
On a call with reporters, Stacy Cummings, program executive officer of the Defense Healthcare Management Systems (DHMS), said the Coast Guard will be joining the DOD's existing 10-year, $4.3 billion contract, rather than issuing a separate solicitation, according to media reports. Cummings said she anticipates the Coast Guard will eventually integrate into DOD's deployment schedule, but that she was unsure the exact timeline. Federal officials did not provide any details on the added cost of the Coast Guard’s inclusion on the DoD-Cerner contract.
In a posted notice of intent, DHMS stated that on March 22, the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support - United States Coast Guard, formally requested to partner with PEO DHMS to implement MHS GENESIS for the USCG. “The USCG's analysis indicated that all of its requirements would be satisfied by the MHS GENESIS solution and that it would achieve the same critical benefits of a single standard solution as DoD and VA; most notably to ensure that every military beneficiary and retiree has access to a single, unified Electronic Health Record,” the notice stated.
Congressional leaders had been urging the Coast Guard to move forward on a new EHR system implementation, after its failed attempts to implement its own health record system. During a U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation subcommittee hearing back in January, Congressional leaders expressed frustration over the Coast Guard’s failure to implement a new EHR system, and urged the agency to implement the same EHR system currently being rolled out by the DoD.
According to an article in the Federal Times, during a phone call with reporters on Monday, Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems, said that the lessons learned from the DoD will be used to inform a Coast Guard roll out.
“The work that we’re doing now in DoD will benefit both the Coast Guard and the VA, and as we move forward together, we’re going to be able to make the best decisions for all the partners,” Cummings said.
According to Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, director of acquisition programs and program executive officer for the Coast Guard, the DoD and Coast Guard systems and needs are already very similar, meaning that the lessons learned for one will likely apply to the other, according to the Federal Times article.
And, that article further quoted Johnston: “They already have those separate teams that are working on where are those soft spots as far as network and security, and we’re working with getting those same bodies and those same experts rolled into our CIO shop.”
Officials have not announced an official timeline for the Coast Guard rollout, however, Cummings said that the Coast Guard’s initial deployment will likely take far less time than that of DoD, as the configuration of the two systems will likely be very much the same, the Federal Times article stated.
In September 2010, the Coast Guard awarded a five-year, $14 million contract to acquire a commercial off-the-shelf EHR system to manage the healthcare data of approximately 56,000 active Coast Guard members. The contract was awarded to Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, while working to implement the new EHR system, Coast Guard officials determined that other healthcare-related IT systems were outdated and needed modernization. The project was then expanded and became the Integrated Health Information System (IHiS) project. The project consisted of various contracts with 25 vendors and was estimated to cost approximately $65 million to implement. In October 2015, the Coast Guard decided to terminate the IHiS project. At the same time, the Coast Guard also decommissioned its two legacy EHR systems and directed its clinics to revert to maintaining health records using a predominately paper-based process.