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by Travis Dalton
Published on October 30, 2018

For nearly 40 years, Cerner has delivered innovative solutions for thousands of global health care providers. Today, we’re striving to create a better care experience for Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.

The Leidos Partnership for Defense Health, of which Cerner is a core partner, is taking the monumental step of providing an electronic health record, MHS GENESIS, for the Department of Defense. Cerner was also selected to lead a similar charge for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Leveraging the expertise and insights of our commercial clients, these efforts will achieve more efficient interoperability for the DoD and VA – creating a single health record across more than 1,700 health care sites and a lifetime of seamless care for nearly 20 million Servicemembers, Veterans and their beneficiaries.

We’re in the early phases of this transformation. It’s a complex endeavor that will take time and involve asking passionate health care providers to change some of the processes they’ve been using for decades.

With change of this scope and scale, there will be challenges. It will take the country’s best and brightest industry leaders to succeed. That’s why Cerner announced a new collaboration this year to ensure we meet the unique needs of the DoD and the VA,  and implement the capabilities that are in the best interest of the Servicemembers and Veterans they serve.

When we’re done, the electronic health records and health data of the men and women who bravely serve our country will be accessible across military and VA care facilities, as well as thousands of civilian health care providers.

Early results

So far, our focus has centered on implementing solutions at four DoD military treatment facilities, or initial operational capability (IOC) sites. I recently had the opportunity to visit these sites and meet with their leadership teams. I am encouraged by the progress being made and the direction we are now headed. Even in this early stage, thanks to the leadership at each site, we’re seeing improvements in patient safety, patient care and efficiency. We are seeing measurable progress at the IOC sites, such as:

  • Approximately a nine-minute improvement in the time from when a patient arrives at the Emergency Department (ED) to when they see an ED provider.
    (Initial 60 days post-go live through May ’18)
  • Avoided approximately 2,300 duplicate orders of four commonly placed lab orders (January through June 2018)
  • Avoided more than 400 duplicate chest X-rays (January through August 2018)
  • Increased the number of online portal messages between patients and their care teams by more than 40 percent. (Initial 60 days post go live through July 2018)

In addition, we’ve seen other improvements across the IOC sites since the first 60 days of the technology going live*, including:

  • Increased number of patients seen in ambulatory locations by 33 percent
  • Increased the volume of necessary prescriptions and refills by 65 percent

*(initial 60 days post go live through August 2018)

Fine-tuning the implementation

In nearly four decades of partnering with health care providers, we’re well accustomed to the initial hurdles that come with a technology implementation.

With the DoD, our goal was to identify challenges and fine-tune processes early, so we proactively sought feedback a few different ways.

The DoD’s Joint Interoperable Test Command conducted an Initial Operational Test & Evaluation at the four IOC sites. The reports confirmed some of the challenges the team was already working to resolve. Though some have portrayed the report’s findings as a setback for the program, these reports accomplished exactly what we intended. We welcome the feedback from the IOT&E reports as well as direct feedback from end-users and leadership at the IOC sites. We will continue to work with them to optimize and improve the system throughout the lifespan of the program.

Regarding the VA, Cerner and the agency are committed to applying commercial best practices, as well as any lessons learned from our DoD experience, to the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program. The VA has unique challenges and it’s critical that end-users and stakeholders are engaged throughout the implementation process.  That’s one of the reasons Cerner hosted more than 400 stakeholders including Veteran Service Organizations, government officials from the VA, DoD, Office of Management and Budget, and industry partners at our company headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri for a program kickoff. The event included program briefings from VA senior leaders; clinical, technical and change management workshops; and, a solutions gallery that gave end-users a chance to better understand the technology that will be deployed at the VA.  

Next phases

Due to the hard work and commitment of the site commanders and end-users at the DoD IOC sites, we’re well-positioned to soon kick off the next phase of deployment across military medical facilities in California and Idaho.

Though our work is only beginning with the VA’s EHRM program, we’re continually engaging their leaders and end-users through local workshops and site reviews that are critical to implementation at their IOC sites. EHRM will have ongoing innovation and health information exchanges among military and Veteran care facilities and thousands of civilian health care providers throughout the program.

Why this matters

Servicemembers and Veterans deserve the very best care and services available – whether treatment is received in the community, at a military or VA facility. When the DoD and VA implementations are complete, Servicemembers and Veterans will no longer be forced to carry a printed version of their records, experience gaps in care or undergo redundant medical testing. Instead, providers will be able to see a patient’s complete health record – rather than just a snapshot or their current medical condition.

We know the commitment a complex IT installation requires. We also know that there will be hurdles to overcome.

Our priority is doing what’s right for our nation’s Servicemembers, Veterans, caregivers and their families.

Simply put, this matters because they matter. And the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health, Cerner and our industry partners are committed to delivering a transformational health care system.