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Department of Defense Delays Initial EHR Rollout to February 2017

October 12, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The Department of Defense announced on October 11 a revised deployment schedule for the rollout of its new commercially available electronic health records (EHR) system with an initial rollout now slated for February 2017.

The DoD, through its Defense Healthcare Management Systems Program Executive Office (PEO DHMS), announced the new EHR system, known as Military Health System (MHS) Genesis, is now scheduled to go live at just one facility, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, in February, according to a report by Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Jared Serbu.

Back in April, as previously reported by Healthcare Informatics, the DoD announced that the massive project to modernize the Military Health Systems’ EHR system would launch at the end of this year. At that time, DoD officials said the MHS Genesis program would begin at four Pacific Northwest hospitals at the end of 2016, followed by a pre-planned, programmed installation expected to be completed over a several-year period.

The report by Federal New Radio’s Serbu cited remarks made by program officials Tuesday that the new MHS Genesis, a $4.3 billion upgrade to the military’s current health record system, would launch at only one base in February and will then roll out to three other Washington State hospitals by June 2017.

However, the plan for full, worldwide deployment remains unchanged, that will take until 2022.

DoD officials first forecast the delay a month ago. At that time, Stacy Cummings, program executive officer of PEO DHMS, told reporters, “We challenged ourselves to a very, very aggressive schedule because we know this system is going to work and it’s going to improve health care. When we identified issues we decided to take the time we needed to get it right. We think the users we’re supporting deserve that, and the few months we’re investing right now is going to enable us to get it right on day one.”

Cummings said, a month ago, the problems were discovered during tests involving DoD and its prime contractor, Leidos, that simulated various health care scenarios and measured the ability of the software, made primarily by Cerner, to respond to them. “During the testing of those scenarios, we found that the data exchange wasn’t happening in the way that we intended,” she said. “But these are technical issues, they’re solvable, and we have confidence that we will solve them.”

According to the Federal News Radio report yesterday, Cummings reiterated the need for a revised schedule for more work on the interfaces between DoD’s legacy health IT systems and the modern EHR platform.

“It also provides additional time for the program team and our vendor to implement clinical capabilities, complete cybersecurity risk management and test these capabilities prior to initial deployment,” she told reporters during a brief conference call Tuesday, according to the report.

Serbu also wrote, “Cummings said the longer delay at the other Pacific Northwest sites—Oak Harbor Naval Hospital, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Hospital Bremerton—would allow for the early addition of features that hadn’t been planned for inclusion in the EHR until much later in the five-year roll out of Genesis. Those include voice recognition technologies and blood transfusion management.”

“Those additional capabilities aren’t requirements at Fairchild, but they are at the other three sites,” Cummings said. “So in order to have the best possible user experience for our clinicians and beneficiaries, this made the most sense for long-term program success.”

The delay also is in line with a DoD Inspector General audit report back in May that called out the DoD’s December rollout schedule as unrealistic. In that report, the DoD IG cautioned about potential delays involved with developing and testing the interfaces needed to interact with legacy systems and ensuring the new EHR system is secure against cyberattacks.

“We agree that we set a very aggressive schedule for ourselves, and that schedule included significant concurrency, meaning we were doing several different things at the same time around contractor-led tests, government-led tests, cybersecurity risk management, and moving quickly into deployment,” Cummings said, according to Serbu’s reporting. “So what we’ve done in this modified schedule is give us time to fix any defects we identify. The re-plan we’re announcing does take into account all of the risks that were identified by the IG, but also those risks that were identified by us.”

As Healthcare Informatics reported on July 29, 2015, a consortium of three companies—Leidos, Cerner Corporation, and Accenture Federal, last summer won the DoD EHR Modernization Program contract, covering more than 9.5 million DoD beneficiaries and the more than 205,000 care providers who support them.

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