MHS Genesis deployment suspended amid COVID-19 pandemic

The rollout of a commercial electronic health record system to Defense Department hospitals on pause to support response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rollout of a commercial electronic health record system to military sites worldwide is being paused to let the Defense Department respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Tinston, who heads the group leading the integration of the MHS Genesis system across the Military Health System, informed congressional leadership of the suspension in a March 26 email.

Defense Healthcare Management Systems is taking the step because of the burden training and other go-live activities would place on caregivers focused on responding to the novel coronavirus. DHMS will continue its support for the eight sites where MHS Genesis, a version of Cerner's health record system, is currently deployed, and will also look to improve its own deployment strategies.

"I am encouraged by the efforts of this team to analyze deployment strategies and continue to seek ways to create efficiencies not only within the DoD but with our [Department of Veterans Affairs] counterparts as well," Tinston said. VA is just beginning the process of implementing the Cerner software across its sprawling enterprise.

Roger Baker, former CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said that development work -- such as coding interfaces or data conversion -- can still continue full throttle.

"I'd expect the project would continue full speed, but rollout to actual users is going to have to be held off for the extremely valid reason that the users have something more important to do," Baker told FCW in an interview.

Tinston told lawmakers that DHMS is looking to support clinical response to COVID-19 through the use of a new "common operating picture" capability in the Medical Situational Awareness in the Theater (MSAT) application. This gives medical teams a dashboard view of logistics, medical demand, disease surveillance and more. The organization is looking to add more telehealth and other virtual capabilities and enhancing existing electronic health record tools.

Cerner also is updating its system to handle novel coronavirus, FCW has learned. The company released new codes last week that will be put into production on MHS Genesis on April 1, with additional codes expected April 4.

This article first appeared on FCW, a partner site with Defense Systems.