Department Of Defense (DOD) EHR Delayed By “Aggressive Schedule”

The Department of Defense has announced that it will be delaying the deployment of its massive EHR project, citing issues identified in testing and an “aggressive schedule” as reasons for the decision. If the DoD and its vendors are right, the deployment delay will be a negligible few months, though one setback to an effort of this kind usually to leads to another.

On the plus side, military officials said, they’ve made significant progress with developing user-approved workflows, interfaces and technical integration of its legacy system to date. But they’re not ready to engage in the concurrent system configuration, cybersecurity risk management, contractor and government testing yet.

The deployment has been in the works for little over a year. Last summer, the DoD Healthcare System Modernization Program awarded the $4.3 billion contract to upgrade its existing Military Health System EHR to a group including Cerner and defense contracting firm Leidos. The Cerner/Leidos team won out against some tough competition, including a partnership including Allscripts, HP and Computer Sciences Corp. and an Epic/IBM bid.

The ten-year project is about as large and complex an integration effort as you’re likely to see even by Cerner standards. The effort will connect healthcare systems located at Army hospitals, on Naval vessels, in battlefield clinics across the globe. MHS GENESIS will bring all of this data — on active-duty members, reservists, and civilian contractors — into a single open, interoperable platform. The new platform should serve 9.5 million military beneficiaries in roughly 1,000 locations.

The project is upgrading the DoD from AHLTA (Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application), which has been in place since 2004. AHLTA has many flaws, though none that would surprise a health IT expert. (For example, when patients are referred to non DoD providers, the data is not captured and integrated into the system.)

Ultimately, it won’t matter very much whether the DoD manages to kick off its project on time. The larger question, here, is whether over the course of a 10-year integration effort, the project becomes, as Forbes columnist Loren Thompson puts it, “obsolete before it’s even built” and incapable of the data sharing that fueled its conception. Of course, any systems integration with a long timeline faces that risk, but not all industries are changing as quickly as healthcare.

The truth is, this is arguably an awkward time for any large entity to be making big interoperability plans. I’d argue that while there are more initiatives than ever aimed at the problem, they’ve effectively made things worse rather than better. After all, the unfortunate truth is that the more people compete over interoperability standards, the less possible data sharing becomes.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

2 Comments

  • Im kind of amazed that you are saying that the DOD and VA get a 10 year pass of interop but the rest of the US system is pounded by MU, now MACRA and interop etc. They get 14 billion for a defined set of patients, just for this integration. If HITECH used that amount per patient for integration/interop HITECH would be a 500 billion dollar program, maybe even a trillion.
    I find it hard to be “easy” on the DOD/VA EHR at those costs, that super slow timeline 10 years? We get proposed MACRA rules in July and maybe? final rules in November and an expectation that all software and readiness should be complete 2 months later for full compliance and reporting, whether APM or MIPS. AND we are forced to use cert EHR, even when its been PROVEN over and over to be a burden, interferes with patient MD care/relationship, not secure, inefficient/unusable, and certainly VERY costly. Can you reconcile this?

  • It’s a fair point. Must be hard to be in the government asking for healthcare to be interoperable when your own DoD and VA aren’t interoperable. That’s embarrassing. There is no way to reconcile it.

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