The U.S. Department of Defense is set to begin the initial implementation of its Cerner EHR in December, according to Stacy Cummings, program executive overseeing the highly-anticipated $4.3 billion contract.
DOD has learned that the ultimate success of the project will be more about change management than technology, she added.
The new system, which will include both healthcare and dental care records, will deploy first to sites in the Pacific Northwest, Cummings told an audience at the ONC Annual Meeting Tuesday.
Before awarding the contract to the Leidos/Cerner/Accenture partnership last July, Cummings noted, she and her DoD team spent two years doing an analysis to ensure the choice of a commercial system would be right for the DoD.
The selection has been made, but the analyzing continues.
“We are doing testing prior to and during the deployment to ensure that our interfaces are working,” she said, “to ensure that the workflows are working, as well as to make sure it is well suited to our needs in the DOD.”
As Cummings sees it, the advantages of a commercial system are numerous.
“The benefits we are getting out of this tool (Cerner Millennium), is it is tested and disseminated to many sites worldwide,” she said.
Opting for a commercial off-the-shelf tool also gives DoD access to improved processes, as well as analytics and decision-making tools that it would otherwise have to invest in on its own.
“We will have competition around many providers to improve their product,” she added, “and it is an incentive for interoperability because as the programs continue to get better, they will be more interoperable.”
“We have interoperability between the DoD and the VA,” Cummings said in response to a question from the panel’s moderator Michael Painter, MD, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Equally important, she said, DoD employs the same tool to exchange data with commercial healthcare providers, which is critical because more than half of percent of all care for beneficiaries is done outside of DoD
At DoD, the implementation team is configuring, not customizing, “which means that we're taking commercial best practices as have been built into the tool that we bought and we are standardizing the processes,” Cummings said.
To that end, DoD is investing in training, change management, coaches, and taking lessons learned from other large Cerner customers, namely Intermountain Healthcare.
“We are not just training people how to use the system we are teaching them how to take advantage of the business process and the decision support inherent in the commercial tool,” she said.