Coast Guard's abrupt termination of Epic EHR rollout prompts House hearing

House Transportation Committee will question Coast Guard on Jan. 30 about its lack of management, governance, administration over the EHR issues.
By Bernie Monegain
11:36 AM
Coast Guard EHR

The Government Accountability Office has hit the Coast Guard for failing to implement an electronic health record system and creating havoc by resorting to a paper process.

The House Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing Jan. 30 to consider the Coast Guard's failure to implement an Epic electronic health record back in 2015.

The Coast Guard canceled the contract two years ago without explanation, according to Epic Systems, the EHR vendor who had won the contract.

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[Update: Congressman calls on Coast Guard to sign up for Cerner EHR]

Today, the Coast Guard is tangled in a web of paper processes, which is creating havoc, GAO found.

After canceling the project in October 2015, the Coast Guard could not return to using its electronic legacy system because the technology had been decommissioned in 2015, according to GAO findings.

The agency is recommending the Coast Guard “expeditiously and judiciously” pursue the acquisition of a new EHR, adding that, in doing so, the Coast Guard should ensure key processes are implemented. The government watchdog also called for the establishment of project governance boards to oversee the project.

[Also: How the Coast Guard’s ugly, Epic EHR break-up played out]

As for Epic, it posted a project timeline of the abandoned Coast Guard work on its site prior to the GAO report. In the post, Epic noted its work on the project was repeatedly rated “exemplary” by the Coast Guard in formal documented reviews. “Epic was paid in full for the work done,” the EHR vendor writes on its website. “The U.S. Government did not request any refund. The software was ready to go live.”

GAO concluded the Coast Guard could not demonstrate effective management of the project, lacked governance and failed to document lessons learned from the project. Also, relevant documentation was often not available.

“Management told us documentation either did not exist or could not be located because several of the key project management team members were no longer employees of the Coast Guard,” GAO said. 

GAO noted that the Coast Guard also lacked governance mechanisms for its health information system and recommended the Coast Guard develop new performance goals or describe how existing goals are sufficient, publicly report its goals, assess the limitations in performance data are documented, document measurable corrective actions and implementation timeframes, as well as document efforts to monitor implementation of corrective actions. 

The Department of Homeland Security concurred with all five recommendations.

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