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Fresh from HIMSS: Building a single tech platform will modernize MHS joint readiness

DHA leaders at HIMSS shared how creating one military health IT platform will help the MHS to better support joint readiness. Broadly standing up MHS GENESIS – the military’s integrated medical and dental electronic health record – will continue over the next few years and replace more than 50 legacy systems. (U.S. Air Force photo) DHA leaders at HIMSS shared how creating one military health IT platform will help the MHS to better support joint readiness. Broadly standing up MHS GENESIS – the military’s integrated medical and dental electronic health record – will continue over the next few years and replace more than 50 legacy systems. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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Las Vegas – As the Defense Health Agency continues developing a more robust information technology environment, the DHA Chief Information Officer and other DHA IT leaders shared updates this week with attendees gathered for the 2018 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS conference.

In a series of breakout sessions, DHA leaders talked about how to bring every part of the Military Health System onto one, joint health care IT platform. The enterprise is following a process of building standards, consolidating IT infrastructure, standardizing systems and applications, managing risk, and executing deployment. Broadly standing up MHS GENESIS – the military’s integrated medical and dental electronic health record – will continue over the next few years and replace more than 50 legacy systems.

With as many as 9.4 million beneficiaries at over 1,100 locations and across 16 countries, making changes across military treatment facilities and providing standard services for every part of the system is complex.

According to Mr. T. Pat Flanders, DHA CIO and DHA deputy assistant director of information operations, replacing duplicative networks across the military medical landscape with one network will not only help reduce maintenance costs, it will ultimately help secure the MHS technology environment and improve access to health care for service members and their families.  

“A single, reliable medical network means having everyone on the same email system,” said Flanders.  “Unified helpdesk capabilities, one e-learning platform, and a coordinated datacenter hosting strategy will bring the MHS together in a powerful way.” Future health care delivery options for providers and beneficiaries will be possible once there is a single video teleconference and telemedicine system, he added.

DHA’s infrastructure and operations division chief, Col. Beverly Beavers, says centralized and standard features may translate into more convenience. With mobility, increased security, and fewer IT accounts to keep track of, health care providers and staff will be able to move with more ease across the system’s network of hospitals.

“The business impact of what we call ‘desktop to data center’ will be a more efficient MHS,” said Beavers. “Features like secure access to network resources, a single point of contact for tiered support, and centrally managed infrastructure and services will result in a number of benefits.”

In the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the DHA broader responsibilities to include administration and management of military medical treatment facilities.  At the same time, the Department of Defense  is looking for efficiencies through significant reforms across the MHS.  

The DHA IT community is collaborating with the functional community to prioritize systems and applications, planning for greater standardization, working to better manage risk across the MHS enterprise, and helping ensure DoD cyber security mandates are implemented.

“Managing cyber security risk requires participation from all users of technology,” said Lt. Col. Alan Hardman, DHA’s cyber security chief operations officer. “Everyone from the average user and up to the information system security manager needs to be able to identify and respond to cyber incidents. How and what each person does to respond will, in part, depend on their role.” Everyone must know how to report suspected incidents so DHA can deploy enterprise detection and response mechanisms, he added.

Implementing, managing, and sustaining a medical information enterprise for the MHS isn’t the only focus. Dr. Paul Cordts is currently serving as the DHA director for strategy, plans, and functional integration. As service members leave the MHS and receive services under the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Cordts emphasized that a single IT platform can facilitate health information exchange.

In a session focused on DoD and VA information exchange, Cordts shared some of the standards that have been established to help support patient care and interoperability across the two health systems.  Of great importance are electronic health information exchanges, or HIEs, which allows medical teams, pharmacists, and other health care providers to access and securely share medical information electronically.

“The ultimate HIE is a personal health record,” said Cordts.  “And, achieving external interoperability at DoD and VA will improve the speed, quality, safety, and cost of patient care.”

DHA speakers at HIMSS stressed that advancing operability and creating one MHS health IT platform will equip the enterprise with a greater ability to support joint readiness.

The HIMSS conference runs through Friday, March 9. Interested parties can follow along with the conference coverage on social media using #HIMSS18.

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