The U.S. Defense Department’s Deeply Flawed Electronic Health Records Program
A US $4.3 billion electronic health records program for the U.S. Department of Defense is “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable,” according to a recently released memo and report from the agency’s director of operational test and evaluation. That deployment should be complete by 2023, at which point the EHR system will support (pdf) 9.4 million beneficiaries and 205,000 healthcare professionals. Cummings added that she doesn’t expect the issues Behler raised to delay that schedule.
MHS Genesis is meant to replace the Defense Department’s current $2 billion electronic health record system, whichwas launched in 2004 to great fanfare and is known as the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA). Since then, AHLTA (pdf) has proven to be an operational albatross in the eyes of military healthcare practitioners. Its usability has consistently been ranked last among EHR systems.
Those issues, along with the its high maintenance costs and inability to interoperate with the EHR system used by the Veterans’ Administration, were the prime drivers for the Defense Department’s decision to ditch AHLTA and go with MHS Genesis, which is based on Cerner’s commercial EHR system. While few dispute the need for a new EHR system for the military, concerns with MHS Genesis stretch back to its acquisition in 2015, with many critics calling the effort a disaster in waiting. They questioned whether it would lock the Defense Department into a single vendor and an obsolete EHR, and whether the agency could successfully implement such a complex, large-scale EHR system given its very aggressive strategy and poor track record with health IT systems.