DoD standardizing IT infrastructure ahead of EHR modernization

The agency is touting progress already made toward its stated goal of building up-to-date IT for the military health system
By Jack McCarthy
08:07 AM
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As the Defense Health Agency gets set to start the massive undertaking of replacing and modernizing its electronic health record system, the agency is standardizing and consolidating its sprawling IT infrastructure.

DHA's ultimate aim is to develop up-to-date, fully operational IT services for its military health system.

"So far DHA has made progress on infrastructure preparedness – particularly in the Pacific Northwest Region where we will achieve initial operating capability with the modernized EHR before rolling it out more widely – and efforts are on schedule," David Bowen, CIO for the Military Health System, told Federal Times.

The DoD's Healthcare Management Systems Modernization program is spending $11 billion to transition to a new EHR system, which will support more than 9.7 million beneficiaries, including active duty, retirees and their dependents. The current EHR system serves patients and clinicians in 2,300 locations around the world, and the DHMSM contract is expected to be awarded this summer.

Bowen said a "Tiger Team" of DHA engineers and other staffers has been working at the Pacific Northwest site developing infrastructure plans. The works includes ensuring the Military Treatment Facility network bandwidth requirements for wired and wireless networks support military healthcare operations. As standardization efforts move forward, a secure, centralized IT infrastructure with authentication across application, desktop and server environments is among the goals. Bowen said providers and staff will be able to operate within the medical facility and access their information resources.

"This is good IT management and we were moving down this path anyway," Bowen told Federal Times. "The EHR has caused us to speed it up."

The DHA is a joint, integrated Combat Support Agency launched in October 2013 supporting medical services for the Army, Navy and Air Force. DHA is consolidating systems, data centers and resources IT support teams from each of the armed services, achieving in fiscal 2014 net savings of $236 million, with health IT contributing $39.19 million in savings.

The agency is also moving email to the secure, cloud-based Defense Information Systems Agency's Defense Enterprise Email. Bowen explained that the DHA is also consolidating education and training systems into a "one-stop" learning management system, with 23 portals united into a single resource. Called Joint Knowledge Online, it enables access to training records to ensure individual learning and training requirements are met.

"Our primary goal is to support our medical teams and administrators across the Military Health system with reliable tools to support patient safety, high quality care and access to care when they need it," Bowen said.

In addition, Bowen said a Joint Portfolio Board will include an expenditure approval process, fostering development of a consolidated financial portfolio.
Bowen added that the growth of mobile devices and services will support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.

"As we increase the use of mobile devices, telehealth will provide faster access to information from any location," Bowen added. "Wireless infrastructures will allow providers to use hand-held devices enabling remote patient diagnosis and lab result access."