Nomadic nature of the military necessitates a health record just as mobile
(Left to right) Dr. Paul Cordts, the Military Health System’s functional champion in the development of MHS GENESIS, the military’s new electronic health record keeping system, Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems, and Army Col. Richard Wilson, a division chief in the Health Information Technology directorate at the Defense Health Agency, talk about the development and deployment of MHS GENESIS at AMSUS 2016 on Nov. 29, 2016.
PEople in the military and their families move around a lot, from more permanent assignments every few years to temporary assignments every few months. Packing up and moving across the country or, in some cases, across the world, is challenge enough without having to worry about whether health records are in the suitcases and handbags of those uprooting their lives. That’s why they deserve a health record that moves with them electronically.
“Those we care for [in the Military Health System] are somewhat nomads, geographically dispersed, “ said Army Brig. Gen. John Cho, the deputy chief of staff for support for the Army’s Medical Command. “But we share a common bond through combat casualty care. There are certain injuries that are unique to military medicine, and that’s the bond that makes us unique.”
Cho serves as the Army’s functional champion on development of the new electronic health record, MHS GENESIS. He was part of a conversation on how to make those records as efficient and reliable as possible at the AMSUS (The Society of Federal Health Professionals) 2016 meeting going on this week at National Harbor near Washington, D.C. Cho was joined by the functional champions from the Army and Air Force, as well as officials from the Program Executive Office Defense Healthcare Management Systems (PEO DHMS) and the Defense Health Agency (DHA). The group explored ways to make the new records system better and able to meet all the military’s goal of improving the readiness of the service members it covers.
“What we would like to have is medics who are ready to deploy and current all the time. We would also like a ready force who can go and do their job wherever they need to do that, [along with] a responsibility to beneficiaries (family members and retirees receiving health care from the MHS),” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Roosevelt Allen, director, Medical Operations and Research, and chief of the Dental Corps, with the Air Force surgeon general’s office and his service’s functional champion in the MHS GENESIS process. “Ideal health care would be of high quality, safe, readily accessible, preventive in nature, patient-centered, evidence-based, [and have] positive outcomes and a positive patient experience for our beneficiaries.”
Allen made the case that the current system of health recordkeeping is falling short in these areas, and MHS GENESIS will fix current shortcomings. Dr. Paul Cordts is the Military Health System’s functional champion in the development of the record, being tested now and rolling out starting in the Pacific Northwest in early 2017 and expected to be ready throughout the MHS in five years. He said those on this project have not been working in a vacuum. They received input from more than 850 experts in the field around the world who care for patients and will actually be using the new system.
“A very large number of subject matter experts have been working months and years on these workflows,” said Cordts. “It represents not only clinical but business and operational roles, so the full spectrum of what an electronic health record can do [is represented].”
Those speaking about MHS GENESIS said this is just part of a larger military goal of functioning as a high-reliability organization, a state where the MHS is constantly improving and, most importantly, staying focused on providing the highest quality of care to all its beneficiaries.
“It’s more than just tools. This is about culture, policy and training,” said Navy Capt. Dan Zinder, the Navy’s functional champion for the new electronic health record. “We’re getting an entire organization thinking in a high-reliability model, and that’s a big process.”
Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for PEO DHMS, said a change like this, where a large medical organization went with an off-the-shelf product and configured it for its purposes, as in the case of MHS GENESIS, is not without precedent. She said the MHS went this route to get the benefits of being one of many users who could look to its commercial provider to make continuous improvements to technology, reliability and speed as needs changed.
“While this is a large undertaking, it is achievable, and we have the ability to be successful and timely using a combination of those commercial and [Department of Defense] best practices,” said Cummings.