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MHS GENESIS Leader Talks Sustainment Following Deployment

Image of MHS GENESIS is the Department of Defense’s new, common electronic health record for the Military Health System currently operational in the continental United States, which is 86% of the nearly 3,500 deployment locations worldwide. Deployment now moves overseas, starting with the European region on Sept. 23 and the Indo-Pacific region on Oct. 28. In September 2019, DOD began incremental deployment of MHS GENESIS. Deployment will complete by early in calendar year 2024. (Photo By Janice Erdlitz). MHS GENESIS is the Department of Defense’s new, common electronic health record for the Military Health System currently operational in the continental United States, which is 86% of the nearly 3,500 deployment locations worldwide. Deployment now moves overseas, starting with the European region on Sept. 23 and the Indo-Pacific region on Oct. 28. In September 2019, DOD began incremental deployment of MHS GENESIS. Deployment will complete by early in calendar year 2024. (Photo By Janice Erdlitz)

Since the initial launch of MHS GENESIS in 2017, the new electronic health record completed the final deployment within the United States in July 2023—reaching the 86% milestone for worldwide deployment.

U.S. Air Force Col. Christina Sheets, program manager for the Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization system, discussed MHS GENESIS during her session at the 2023 Defense Health Information Technology Symposium, Aug. 8-10, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Her presentation, titled “ MHS GENESIS: Lessons Learned from Deployment and Sustainment,” discussed the challenges and successes she and her team experienced rolling out the new Defense Health Agency electronic health record system.

“We were told in the beginning that this was impossible,” said Sheets. “But we did it.”

Sheets and her team had to take five different electronic health record systems and combine them into one.

“One lesson we learned was that if we all work hard together for a common goal, there's nothing that can stop us,” said Sheets.

MHS GENESIS is the new, common electronic health record for the Military Health System. It’s an enterprise solution supporting a system of health care delivery with standardized clinical and business practices. It’s designed to be a patient-centric system focusing on quality, safety, security, and readiness.

It is currently operational in the continental U.S., which is 86% of the nearly 3,500 deployment locations worldwide. This includes clinics, hospitals and medical centers and some National Guard and Reserve sites.

Deployment now moves overseas, starting with the European region deploying on Sept. 23 and the Indo-Pacific region on Oct. 28.

More than 164,000 DHA providers currently use MHS GENESIS to provide health care to more than 7.2 million potential beneficiaries.

MHS GENESIS is also considered a federal health record, as it is operational at 109 U.S. Coast Guard locations, seven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sites, and five Department of Veterans Affairs locations.

Lessons Learned to Guide Future Deployments

As shared in Sheets’ DHITS session, the MHS GENESIS team learned many things along the way to help future deployments and sustainment of the EHR.

She talked about many of the lessons learned during the initial rollout, including:

  • Focus on the patient experience by designing products around the end user and tailoring offerings to their needs
  • Implement standardization by using consistent tools, process, vocabulary, and problem-solving methodology to drive cross-product usage of capabilities and improve efficiency
  • Foster world-class talent by nurturing excitement and reinforcing a customer-centric mindset to seek out and drive innovation throughout the organization
  • Drive scalability by understanding needs and requirements of federal partners to enable deployment of MHS GENESIS
  • Engage with command leadership early and often to ensure buy-in and alignment of expectations for future events

Sustaining What Has Been Accomplished

Now that deployment to DHA hospitals and clinics worldwide is nearing completion, the MHS GENESIS team is beginning to transition to sustainment of the system.

“Our original plan was always for deployment; we didn't focus a lot on sustainment until we had people to sustain,” said Sheets. “The sustainment team has to be in tight coordination with deployment teams and vice versa.”

“Transition from deployment to sustainment is going to be an ongoing process,” she added. “I would like to say it's going to be easy … it's going be hard. Sustaining is the hardest part.”

She highlighted how to keep patients engaged through the EHR, including:

  • Shift paradigm for a post-deployment environment
  • Restructure for a product-centric organization
  • Comprise execution teams of product owners to determine what work will be done

The presentation then focused on the next steps for MHS GENESIS.

Now that deployment is completed in the continental U.S., Sheets noted there are still steps to be accomplished, including:

  • Completing overseas deployments by the end of 2023
  • Completing deployment at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in March 2024
  • Transitioning from deployment to sustainment
  • Implementing transformation journey to an integrated product-focused organization

Sharing the challenges her team faced, Sheets said, “Don't let perfection be the enemy of progress.”

“If we had just stopped in the beginning because it wasn't perfect, we never would have gotten out there. It wasn’t perfect. It's still not perfect. But it gets better every day,” Sheets said.

“There's a lot of dedicated people who came before who work hard every day to make sure that we're moving the ball forward. We're listening to our customers and we're listening to the people out there so we can keep improving it.”

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Last Updated: November 14, 2023
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