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MHS IT director explains to HIMSS how recent updates will deliver more from less

Air Force Col. Richard Terry, the acting chief information officer for the MHS, enjoys a brief moment of levity as he spoke at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2017 conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 20, 2017. (MHS photo) Air Force Col. Richard Terry, the acting chief information officer for the MHS, enjoys a brief moment of levity as he spoke at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2017 conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 20, 2017. (MHS photo)

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In a time of tightening budgets, information technology serves as a critical component in the delivery of the best health care for Military Health System (MHS) beneficiaries. With this in mind, Defense officials embarked on an aggressive effort to improve MHS infrastructure to deliver a single, secure, interoperable system for medical communications and IT operations, and to help the MHS absorb more than $400 million in mandated budget cuts over the next five years.

Air Force Col. Richard Terry, the acting chief information officer for the MHS, spoke at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2017 conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 20, 2017. The conference brings together approximately 40,000 health care IT professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from around the world. Terry told those in attendance the MHS sought to realize efficiencies and savings by taking steps that include reducing duplication of effort across each of the services’ own medical systems and the MHS network, standardizing clinical and business processes, and improving access to health care information within the military medical community.

“The advancements we’re making in IT operations will prove to have enormous value-added to our organization by improving reliability, availability, visibility, accuracy, and patient safety,” said Terry.

His remarks came two weeks after the initial deployment of MHS GENESIS, the military’s new electronic health record, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. MHS GENESIS is a single, integrated medical and dental electronic health record for use across the MHS, scheduled to be fully deployed at all military hospitals and clinics by 2022.

“This is a Herculean effort,” said Terry. “We are deploying a new electronic health record in MHS GENESIS as well as maintaining a legacy system. We are carving out about $500 million in savings.”

Terry pointed to a series of steps needed to reach full implementation MHS-wide over the next five years. He said the MHS is consolidating the IT infrastructure so there’s one network, one data center, and one configuration and strategy to make sure everyone is on the same page. As the delivery platform is standardized MHS-wide, the medical community will see one secure and reliable network connecting Department of Defense users with those from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Doctors, nurses, and providers will see an updated system that standardizes core applications.

And both providers and patients will be able to make better use of their smartphones and devices to have reliable and secure access to medical information, no matter where they are.

“With the prevalence of smart phones we have to keep pace with the expanding boundaries of health care,” said Terry.

“We’re really at a tipping point of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future for military medicine. And it’s going to be our commitment to each other and the mission that’s going to push us over the top,” concluded Terry.

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