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DoD health record project, staggering in scale, scores military expert as champion

The massive rollout will require a coordinated effort by clinical, business and information technology stakeholders, says Defense Health Agency’s William Roberts.
By Mike Miliard
05:33 PM

LAS VEGAS – As the Department of Defense's massive, multibillion-dollar EHR modernization project gets underway, the scale of the project presents a critical challenge for officials to get right, Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral William Roberts, MD, who serves as Military Health System electronic health record functional champion at the Defense Health Agency, said at HIMSS16 on Tuesday.

Roberts, who will champion the massive DoD project, said he intends to make sure it succeeds.

While the $4.3 billion price tag wowed when Cerner and Leidos landed the landmark Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization contract this past summer, the size of the project bears out the big-money deal.

The numbers tell the story: 9.5 million beneficiaries (94 percent of them in the United States and 6 percent stationed abroad); more than 205,000 healthcare professionals and support staff working at more than 1,230 locations across 16 countries; 1 million inpatient admissions, 95 million outpatient encounters and 128 million prescriptions filled each year.

"Our organization is complex," said Roberts.

Roberts will serve as liaison among the diverse stakeholders – clinical, business, IT – across the military health system, and help make sure this massive rollout is a "community-driven effort." After all, he said, "implementations conducted as collaborative projects have more success."

The goal in the months and years ahead, as the project gains steam, is to make sure the health system becomes more agile while remaining more consensus- and data-driven.

Roberts said he has helped enlist a network of subject matter experts including those from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Health Agency, representing more than 100 clinical, business and operational roles.

Gaining advice from those diverse experts is key, since the specifics of the EHR rollout will decide its success: Clinical content and order set validation is "no small task," for instance.

“We are keenly aware of the need to actively manage the process of change control," he said.

Army Major General Margaret Wilmoth, RN, said "process redesign" will be critical to the project’s success. "Stakeholders are going to have to make changes in their workflows,” she said.

"Bringing on this new electronic health record is going to mean a meshing of cultures. This is going to be an exciting ride. But we're all excited to see where we'll be on the other side."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN


This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the HIMSS16 conference. Follow our live blog for real-time updates, and visit Destination HIMSS16 for a full rundown of our reporting from the show. For a selection of some of the best social media posts of the show, visit our Trending at #HIMSS16 hub.

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