Pentagon IG: Timeline for New Electronic Health Records System ‘May be Unrealistic’

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The timeline is shaky "because of the risks and potential delays involved in developing and testing the interfaces needed to interact with legacy systems," the IG said.

The Defense Department’s inspector general isn’t sure the Pentagon’s $9 billion electronic health records system will reach initial operating capability on schedule later this year.

In an audit released Tuesday, the IG reported the Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization program, which will replace DOD’s legacy military health systems, met requirements and had an approved acquisition strategy. 

However, the department’s “mandated execution schedule may not be realistic” for meeting an initial operational capability by December 2016, the report concluded.

The full audit has not been released publicly. The IG released a summary of the report on its website. Nextgov has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the full report.

Last summer, DOD awarded a multibillion contract to Leidos and electronic health records developer, Cerner, to upgrade the department’s electronic health records system using commercial software.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters at the time DOD planned to deploy and field test software across eight locations in the Pacific Northwest by the close of 2016.

Further adding to the deadline pressure, the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act demands DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department work to achieve “seamless electronic sharing of medical health data” between both agencies by Dec. 31.

The IG said contracting officials have identified risks and impacts to cost, schedule and performance. But that may not matter because interfacing with legacy systems is challenging, the IG said.

“While the DHMSM program office has identified risks and mitigation strategies, it is still at risk for obtaining an EHR system by the December 2016 initial operational capability date because of the risks and potential delays involved in developing and testing the interfaces needed to interact with legacy systems, ensuring the system is secure against cyberattacks, and ensuring the fielded system works correctly and that users are properly trained,” the audit concluded.

The Pentagon IG recommends the program office perform a schedule analysis to determine whether a December 2016 initial rollout is still achievable and to report to Congress quarterly on the program.

The office neither agreed nor disagreed with the IG’s findings, but stated it was confident it “will achieve initial operational capability later this year in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act.”

DOD’s initial timeline for the project has the agency operating the new health records system across all systems by 2022.

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