The Defense Department has again modified its schedule for deploying a commercial-off-the-shelf electronic health record system from Cerner, following technical issues identified during testing.

Called Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS, the initial deployment of DoD’s new EHR system was slated for December. But, last month, the Pentagon announced that the rollout would be delayed until February to give DoD and prime contractor Leidos additional time to resolve technical issues, including finalizing system interfaces between Cerner’s software and legacy military health systems.

Nonetheless, DoD officials said Tuesday that the EHR rollout plan has again been changed.

According to Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems, the program schedule has been modified so that the initial deployment of MHS GENESIS will take place in February only at Fairchild Air Force Base, near Spokane, Wash.

“The previous schedule had us going live at two sites on the same day, followed by the remaining two sites. The re-plan does have us bringing Fairchild forward on its own,” Cummings said. “It gives us the ability to really demonstrate the MHS GENESIS capability at a single site and take lessons learned from that deployment and use those lessons learned to improve our deployment to the remaining three sites.”

However, Cummings was quick to add that deployment at the remaining inpatient facilities in the Pacific Northwest will begin as early as June and incorporate some capabilities—such as blood transfusion management and voice recognition software—that were initially planned for release later in the deployment schedule. At the same time, she emphasized that the modified schedule will not affect the previously announced full deployment target date of 2022.

“The modified schedule provides additional time for our program team and vendor to finalize system interfaces, implement clinical capabilities, complete cybersecurity risk management, and provide time to test these capabilities prior to initial deployment,” said Cummings, who oversees DoD’s EHR modernization including operational, data exchange, and interoperability initiatives.

Also See: DoD delays initial deployment of new EHR system

A 2016 audit of MHS GENESIS by DoD’s Office of the Inspector General found “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.”

Addressing these potential risks, Cummings acknowledged that “we did set for ourselves a very aggressive schedule that included significant concurrency” but argued that “the time we invest in the program now will help us ensure success in the future and provide the best possible user experience to our beneficiaries and healthcare providers from day one—and, we will not field a product that doesn’t meet that standard.”

Last year, DoD awarded a $4.3 billion contract award to a Leidos-Cerner team to modernize its EHR system, replacing legacy military health systems and promoting greater efficiencies by leveraging the Cerner Millennium solution. Ultimately, the goal of MHS GENESIS is to support the availability of EHRs for more than 9.4 million DoD beneficiaries.

A Cerner spokesperson issued a written statement in response to a query regarding DoD’s announcement.

“We’re pleased with the timeline that identifies Fairchild Air Force Base as the first go-live and remain in good position for an on-time, enterprise-wide deployment as we continue to work with the DoD and our partners to accelerate the pace of innovation in health IT to improve care for our service members, veterans and their families,” said Marlene Bentley, Cerner’s public relations program manager.

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