Defense Department Halts Electronic Health Records Rollout

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During an eight-week pause, the department will assess the program's successes and failures so far.

The Defense Department put on hold its commercial electronic health records rollout—MHS Genesis—for eight weeks as it assesses the “successes and failures” released to the field thus far.

First reported by Politico Pro, Defense Healthcare Management System spokesperson David Norley confirmed the system’s halt to Nextgov Tuesday as it addresses several thousand open “trouble tickets” received from users at four locations used to pilot the platform.

The Defense Department has addressed approximately 11,000 of 17,000 tickets received from clinicians, health care practitioners and other users since MHS Genesis went live, Norley said, and wants to determine what tweaks may be necessary.

“The purpose of our test phase is finding things we need to make adjustments on,” Norley said. “We were always going to do an evaluation of what we have in the field and make adjustments to it.”

Many of the issues revolve around workflow. Clinicians from the four test sites reported significant changes to the basic ways they do business. Norley said end-user dissatisfaction was driven higher because the department opted to wait in addressing certain issues while it accumulated more data.

“What we’ve found is we probably didn’t think workflow changes we were putting in place were going to represent as big a change for end-users doing business as they have,” Norley said. “While we’ve done a fair job telling folks how to push buttons, what we didn’t explain was the difference in why you might press button x or y.”

The Defense Department will send dedicated teams to sites to solicit feedback and evaluate the platform’s performance, as well as training, workflow and policies that surround the program with a goal of upgrading the platform for full deployment across the department.

Norley said Defense officials will convene in late spring to determine whether the software, built by Cerner, is ready for full deployment. Norley said he did not expect the temporary halt to “cause significant deviations” from the Pentagon’s goal of having the platform complete by 2022.

Leidos and Cerner captured the $4.3 billion contract to build the electronic health records system for the Pentagon in 2015, though its total value could exceed $9 billion over an expected 18-year life cycle. Meanwhile, the Veterans Affairs Department is close to finalizing a sole-source contract with Cerner to build its next-generation health records system. One of the terms of VA’s deal is that the platform must be interoperable—or seamlessly share—electronic health records between the agencies.

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