Pentagon's Health Record Platform Shows Progress After Initial Setbacks

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The system has decreased emergency room wait times and increased the number of patients facilities are able to treat, the vendor reports.

The Defense Department is seeing promising results from the initial rollout of its new electronic health record system despite suffering major setbacks during its trial run, according to a vendor’s blog post.

The MHS Genesis platform, developed by Cerner Corp., has so far been deployed at four military health facilities. Auditors deemed the system “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable” after the first round of botched field tests, but the Pentagon is starting to see its health care services improving under the new system, President of Cerner Government Services Travis Dalton wrote.

The wait time for emergency room patients at the test facilities dropped roughly nine minutes between May and July, Dalton said. The system also eliminated thousands of duplicative lab test orders and prevented doctors from repeating hundreds of chest x-rays, he said.

Outpatient facilities also saw 33 percent more patients and filled 65 percent more prescriptions since the first 60 days of the platform going live. Online communication between patients and medical teams also increased significantly, and nurses have cut the amount of time it takes to administer medication in half, according to documents provided by Leidos.

Given the progress that’s been made, Dalton said the department is “well-positioned” to continue the platform’s rollout at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Travis Air Force Base, U.S. Army Health Clinic Presidio of Monterey in California and Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. The next wave of deployments is already underway, according to Leidos.

A few months ago, the platform’s prospects weren’t nearly as strong.

Defense officials temporarily suspended the MHS Genesis rollout in February after it generated more than 14,000 help tickets, including hundreds of incidents that could have led to patient deaths. Initial tests also found platform could only perform about 56 percent of the 197 tasks used to measure performance, according to a report released in May.

In the wake of the report, Leidos refined its deployment strategy to give sites more control over the speed at which they roll out new platform capabilities, Leidos Defense Health Senior Vice President Jerry Hogge said in an email to Nextgov. Doing so has “ensur[ed] system requirements are in place and the entire workforce is informed and properly trained” before they move to the next phase of deployment, he said.

Hogge added the company receives feedback from sites on a daily basis, and he’s "pleased with the progress we have seen.”

The original award to Cerner and Leidos was valued at $4.3 billion with a total potential lifecycle value of $9 billion. In July, the Pentagon raised the contract ceiling by $1.1 billion. MHS Genesis is scheduled to hit full deployment by 2022.

The announcement comes as Cerner kicks off a 10-year, $10 billion effort to roll out a similar electronic health record platform at the Veterans Affairs Department. Earlier this month, the company brought on 24 subcontractors to assist with the overhaul, which would ideally enable Defense and Veterans Affairs to “seamlessly” share records on millions of veterans and active duty personnel.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Travis Dalton's title.