MHS, Navy CIOs Discuss EHR Adoption, DoD Choices At Summit

Jennifer Bresnick | EHR Intelligence | June 14, 2013

The CIOs of the Military Health System (MHS) and the US Navy, David Bowen and Commander Cayetano S. Thornton, took the stage at the Government Health IT Conference and Exhibition this week to discuss EHR adoption, modernization, and the swirling questions surrounding the Department of Defense’s efforts to find a suitable EHR to meet their needs.  With sequestration, interoperability concerns, leadership shakeups, and a lot of bad press surrounding the government’s efforts to get their health IT priorities straight, the CIOs offered a look into how their organizations decide upon and acquire new health IT products.

The burden of legacy systems has played a major role in the modernization problem, with the DoD seeking to replace its aging ALTHA system, and the Department of Veterans Affairs looking to update VistA, adding electronic scheduling and a digital benefits management system to the suite.  “Our legacy systems are eating us alive in terms of cost of support and maintenance,” explained Military Health System CIO David Bowen. “We’re spending 95% on legacy systems, which only gives us 5% [of our budget] for modernization. That’s pretty deplorable.”  And sequestration could squeeze up to $5 billion from the MHS budget next year, making the quest for an interoperable – or ideally integrated – military EHR an even rockier quest.