Audit: DOD e-health timeline ‘not realistic’

The Defense Department’s goal of having a pilot of its modernized electronic health record platform running by the year’s end “may not be realistic,” its inspector general said Wednesday. 

DOD is in the process of migrating to a new $9 billion, “state-of-the-art” EHR system — called the DOD Healthcare Management System Modernization, or DHMSM — to replace its legacy Military Health System and keep up with advances in the health IT arena. The Pentagon awarded the system’s development contract to Leidos and health IT provider Cerner Corporation in July 2015. 

[Read more: Pentagon awards massive electronic health record contract]

The IG found in its audit that “the DHMSM program mandated execution schedule may not be realistic for meeting the required initial operational capability date of December 2016.” That deadline was set in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. 


DOD’s plan as of February 2016 was to deploy DHMSM in waves, beginning in December with initial operational capability testing in the Defense Health Agency’s Puget Sound Region in the Pacific Northwest.

The watchdog cites “risks and potential delays involved in developing and testing the interfaces needed to interact with legacy systems, ensuring the system is secure against cyber attacks, and ensuring the fielded system works correctly and that users are properly trained” as reasons for DOD possibly missing its deadline.

The IG recommends DHMSM’s Program Executive Office perform a schedule analysis to determine if its rollout plan is still realistic and continue monitoring the program for risks, reporting its findings to Congress on a quarterly basis. 

Although the audit was classified “For Official Use Only,” a summary was published Wednesday.

In response, the DHMSM PEO said it was “confident that it will achieve initial operational capability later this year in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act,” and neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation for a schedule analysis. 


“However, the Program Executive Officer did not provide documentation to support his statement,” the summary notes, “Therefore, we ask that the Program Executive Officer reconsider and perform a schedule analysis to determine whether the initial operational capability deadline is achievable.”

The pressure of the year-end deadline is compounded by another mandate from the 2014 NDAA. That legislation requires that DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs provide complete interoperability between their EHR systems by Dec. 31, 2016. The agencies say they have met the goals of the 2014 NDAA with a separate EHR platform called the Joint Legacy Viewer. However, the jury is still out on whether they will connect their modernized EHR platforms — DHMSM and VA’s Digital Health Platform — by then.    

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