Defense Department’s EHR Effort Falters

Posted on October 7, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

From reader DKBerry:

You’d think that buying a common EHR platform and deploying it across all of Defense Department’s medical centers (Army, Navy, Air Force) … that they would have done better.  How did VA succeed where DoD is failing?

Unless the Defense Department addresses weaknesses in project planning and management that have hampered its current electronic health-record system’s capabilities, it risks undermining its new EHR initiatives, according to a Government Accountability Office report (PDF) requested by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee.

The report notes how the Defense Department has obligated some $2 billion since 1988 to an EHR system for the 9.6 million active-duty service members, their families and other beneficiaries but has come up short and has scaled back its original expectations for AHLTA. (AHLTA was originally an acronym for “Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application,” but the department later declared it was no longer an acronym, but a brand.)

After finding AHLTA’s early performance “problematic” in terms of speed, usability and availability, the Department of Defense has sought to acquire a new system known as EHR Way Ahead, according to the report.

The new system, according to the GAO report, “is expected to address performance problems; provide unaddressed capabilities such as comprehensive medical documentation; capture and share medical data electronically within DOD; and improve existing information sharing with the Department of Veterans Affairs,” and has initiated efforts to “stabilize” AHLTA so it can act as a bridge until the system is ready.

The Defense Department has allocated $302 million in its 2011 budget request, according to the report, but has not changed its EHR acquisition process to avoid the same shortcomings it experienced with AHLTA.