- Only a small amount of patient health data has been transferred from the Department of Defense legacy EHR system AHLTA to its new Cerner MHS GENESIS system at Fairchild Air Force Base, according to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman and Representative Phil Roe (R-TN).
Roe told Stars and Stripes that he had seen Fairchild hospital staff express frustration with MHS GENESIS during a recent visit to the DoD care site, which was the first to go live with the Cerner EHR system as part of the department’s initial operating capability (IOC) deployment in the Pacific Northwest. Other DoD IOC sites include Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, Naval Hospital Bremerton, and Madigan Army Medical Center, as well as EHR system go-lives for ships in port.
According to Roe, Fairfield physicians were primarily concerned that only a small amount of patient health data had been transferred to the Cerner platform.
“If I don’t have it all in front of me you’ve just added another hour to my day,” said Roe. “You ask doctors today what’s frustrating them. It’s the damn electronic health system. It takes part of the joy out of medicine.”
Roe initially worried VA physicians would experience similar frustrations with the department’s own Cerner implementation. However, VA has been careful to collect and store data in a common format that is compatible with commercial EHR systems, so data transfer from VistA to the new Cerner system should be more streamlined and efficient for VA.
As a result — and despite the fact that VA sees about twice as many patients as DoD — Roe suggested DoD medical staff will need to access AHLTA for years longer than VA will need to access VistA.
Furthermore, DoD will need to transfer data from three different legacy systems: AHLTA, Essentris, and CHCS. Medical data from each of these systems will need to be transferred to DoD’s Cerner Millennium system, while dental data will move to Dentrix Enterprise.
“DOD does not concede this will be a problem for us,” said Defense Healthcare Management Systems Program Executive Officer Stacy Cummings.
“As we transition to MHS Genesis we will sunset legacy tools locally — at each medical facility — and once we have fully transitioned we will sunset the legacy programs at the enterprise level,” she continued.
Given the slow pace with which DoD is transferring health data from its legacy systems to MHS GENESIS, Disabled American Veterans Deputy National Legislative Director Adrian Atizado questioned whether Cerner would be able to proceed with its plan to launch deployments at VA care sites immediately following DoD EHR system deployments.
Atizado suggested it is possible VA will transition to the new EHR system faster since it is able to transfer medical data from its legacy system more easily than DoD.
“And if VA doesn’t rollout behind them, but in front, what will that do to VA costs?” Atizado said.
Healthcare providers at military care sites will use the clinical application Joint Legacy Viewer to access read-only versions of patient health records stored by DoD, VA, and partners from the private sector who use the common data viewer.
Military Health System Chief Information Officer Patrick Flanders said DoD will need to ensure medical records existing on AHLTA are accessible throughout the MHS GENESIS implementation.
While providers have voiced frustration about the Cerner implementation at Fairchild, Flanders said most complaints are “part of just the growing pains” of implementing a new system during an IOC.