Just because the Defense Department has started to deploy a commercial off-the-shelf electronic health record system from Cerner does not mean that DoD’s legacy EHR is going away anytime soon, according to military officials speaking Tuesday at the HIMSS17 conference in Orlando.

As part of an initial operating capability, Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS completed installation on February 7 at Fairchild Air Force Base, near Spokane, Wash. Fairchild AFB is one of four sites in the Pacific Northwest that will deploy the Cerner Millennium system in 2017, with full deployment of the EHR to be completed in 2022, serving more than 9 million DoD beneficiaries globally.

Also See: DoD rolls out deployment of Cerner EHR system to Fairchild AFB

However, Air Force Col. Richard Terry, acting Military Health System chief information officer in the Defense Health Agency, told the HIMSS audience that “even though we’re deploying MHS GENESIS—a new electronic health record—we still have to sustain our legacy EHR for another five years.”

Terry said sustaining DOD’s legacy Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) system, as well as deploying MHS Genesis enterprise wide, is a “huge undertaking” for the military.

By implementing a single integrated inpatient and outpatient EHR on a global scale, DoD officials believe that MHS GENESIS will ultimately transform the delivery of healthcare for the department.

“I think that we’re going to be amazed and impressed when we figure out all of the decision support and the analytic data that we’re going to get out of this modernization, as well as the interoperability we’re going to have with our major commercial partners and Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems.

Cummings, who oversees DoD’s EHR modernization, including operational, data exchange and interoperability initiatives, added that ensuring data sharing between AHLTA and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ legacy Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture system remains critical.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 requires that DoD and VA EHR systems be interoperable with an integrated display of data. Toward that end, both agencies are using a Joint Legacy Viewer (JLV) that eliminates the need for their respective clinicians to access separate viewers to obtain specific patient information from the other agency.

“We’re going to continue to leverage the Joint Legacy Viewer to meet our interoperability needs to share data between the DoD and VA,” said Cummings, while acknowledging that “we’re not satisfied” with JLV. “That’s not our final step, but our first step in interoperability.”

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