While a House Veterans Affairs’ panel investigated the cause of delayed rollout of electronic health records (EHR) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee investigated a similar question during a hearing on the Defense Health Program.

“Why is this so complicated?” Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., asked Department of Defense representatives before the panel. “This committee, and the other committee focusing on veterans, has been waiting with bated breath to get a health care record system that works.”

Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS is the attempt by the Department of Defense to create a single Electronic Healthcare Record for all servicemembers, and eventually, all veterans. The VA is still working to complete its own EHR system.

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The VA announced in February that the scheduled March go-live of their EHR system was delayed. Lowey said another $1 billion had been requested for the deployment of the Department of Defense system.

“Taxpayers have invested too much to continue with problems and delays,” Lowey said. She added the committee had been funding a military healthcare records system for decades with $4.6 billion already allocated for MHS GENESIS.

The system’s first live version launched at four military medical facilities in Washington State in 2017. It took over two years of upgrades and system changes before the next step of MHS GENESIS called “Wave Travis” was implemented in September 2019. Wave Travis included four installations across Idaho and California, including Travis Air Force Base, north of San Francisco.

“We’ve proven that MHS GENESIS significantly improves the patient experience,” said William Tinson, program executive officer at the Defense Healthcare Management Systems. Tinson said 66 sites were in the deployment process. The next stage, Wave Nellis, is scheduled for June.

“The IT element of it is a small piece of the transformation that has to happen in the organization,” said Tinson. “It’s a training challenge.”

Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs, agreed. “It’s not so much the technology,” McCaffery said. “It’s change management.”

Full deployment across all military hospitals and clinics is expected by the end of 2023.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.