The Coast Guard announced April 9, 2018, its intent to join with the Department of Defense in transitioning its service members’ and clinics’ health records to the MHS GENESIS electronic healthcare system.

On the same day the Coast Guard issued a notice of intent to gather initial information about how its partnership with the MHS GENESIS system would play out.

The DoD originally awarded the contract to develop the GENESIS electronic healthcare system in the summer of 2015 to Cerner, Leidos and Accenture. The first deployment occurred at Fairchild Air Force Base less than two years later in February 2017.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced in June 2017 that it too would be contracting with Cerner to develop an electronic health care system that would be interoperable with the DoD. The Coast Guard’s decision, however, is different than that of the VA, as the Coast Guard will be added on to the DoD’s existing contract, rather than starting its own.

The Coast Guard established a program to acquire an electronic health record system in February 2016 and officially decided that the DoD’s MHS GENESIS would be the best solution to fit its EHR requirements in March 2018.

And while each of the four initial test sites for DoD have reported issues with lag times and difficulty of use on the new system, Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems, said that the lessons learned from the DoD will be used to inform a Coast Guard roll out.

“The work that we’re doing now in DoD will benefit both the Coast Guard and the VA, and as we move forward together, we’re going to be able to make the best decisions for all the partners,” said Cummings.

According to Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, director of acquisition programs and program executive officer for the Coast Guard, the DoD and Coast Guard systems and needs are already very similar, meaning that the lessons learned for one will likely apply to the other.

“They already have those separate teams that are working on where are those soft spots as far as network and security, and we’re working with getting those same bodies and those same experts rolled into our CIO shop,” said Johnston.

Though no official timeline for the Coast Guard rollout has been announced, Cummings said that the Coast Guard’s initial deployment will likely take far less time than that of DoD, as the configuration of the two systems will likely be very much the same. Training and change management programs will therefore take up most of the time prior to deployment.

Once the initial test sites for Coast Guard have been deployed and tested, Cummings said, the Coast Guard will be integrated into the DoD’s GENESIS deployment schedule.

“As we complete the actions to bring the Coast Guard into the MHS GENESIS fold, they will follow the acquisition process in that what we’ll what to do is have them deploy to one or two sites like we did, do an evaluation and make sure that the software baseline and the technology, as well as the infrastructure, meets the needs of the users, and our intention would be to enfold them into the deployment strategy as appropriate,” said Cummings.

Johnston said that the Coast Guard does not yet know where that first test site for the program will be, though all of the DoD’s initial sites have been in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S.

The added cost of the Coast Guard’s inclusion on the contract will be determined after the notice of intent closes on April 24, 2018, and gathers the relevant information, though according to Johnston, the personnel of the Coast Guard is about 2 percent the size of the DoD, which should indicate a much lower cost overall.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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