The initial rollout of the Defense Department’s new electronic health record system from Cerner Corp. has been delayed because of technical problems encountered during testing.

DoD had planned to reach initial operational capability for the EHR system—called Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS—by December. But that schedule will be extended by a few months into next year as the department works to resolve the technical issues involving the integration of Cerner’s commercial software with the legacy military health systems.

In July 2015, the Pentagon awarded a $4.3 billion contract award to a Leidos-Cerner team to modernize DoD’s EHR system, replacing legacy military health systems and promoting greater efficiencies by leveraging the commercial-off-the-shelf Cerner Millennium solution.

An initial EHR deployment was slated to begin in December at military sites in the Pacific Northwest and continuing across all DoD facilities over several years. But, now those plans have been delayed.

“The modification is driven by the aggressive schedule and issues identified during testing that led to the determination that more time is needed to correct these issues,” according to a statement from DoD.

The delay is not surprising given that an audit released earlier this summer by the DoD’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that the EHR program schedule was at risk of not meeting initial requirements by the end of 2016. Auditors had noted that “risks and potential delays involved in developing and testing the interfaces needed to interact with legacy systems, ensuring the system is secure against cyber attacks, and ensuring the fielded system works correctly and that users are properly trained.”

However, at the time, Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems program insisted that DoD was conducting testing both prior to and during the deployment to ensure that its interfaces were working, adding that she was confident that it would be ready in December for the first installations. Now, the Pentagon has changed its tune.

“During the testing of the system, we identified the need for more time before initial deployment to ensure we are providing the best possible user experience to our beneficiaries and healthcare providers,” said Cummings in a written statement.

“We are fully supportive of our customer’s decision,” said Melissa Lee Koskovich, senior vice president and director of communications and marketing at Leidos. “Our priority is ensuring the program’s long-term success.”

Cerner did not comment on the schedule delay itself. However, a spokesperson for the EHR vendor issued an optimistic statement about the future direction of the contract.

“We’re pleased that we remain in good position for an on-time, enterprise-wide deployment and are able to facilitate this additional configuration and testing for the initial operating capability pilot sites so that the system is performing at an optimal level when scaled across all MHS facilities,” said Marlene Bentley, Cerner’s public relations program manager.

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