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2/8/2011
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General Dynamics, McKesson Partner On Defense Department EHR

The companies will help DoD transition from legacy systems to comprehensive, real-time electronic health records for service members.

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General Dynamics Information Technology has entered into a letter of intent with McKesson Provider Technologies (MPT) to collaborate in offering an electronic health record (EHR) for the Department of Defense (DoD).

In a statement released last week by General Dynamics IT, a business unit of General Dynamics, the company said it will work with MPT on DoD's "Way Ahead," the latest version of the department's EHR system, which promises to be a comprehensive, real-time health record for service members and their families and beneficiaries.

The Way Ahead system 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.

General Dynamics plans to leverage its systems-integration expertise and DoD's medical IT knowledge to develop a comprehensive, consolidated solution for DoD healthcare providers.

"The ability of the Department of Defense to provide a centralized electronic health record for its medical beneficiaries will streamline and improve healthcare by reducing testing, minimizing surgery, and avoiding deadly drug interactions," Dan Johnson, president of General Dynamics IT, said in a statement. "General Dynamics' experience supporting the Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4) program allows us to combine the proven capabilities of McKesson's EHR solution with the systems integration and IT operations and maintenance expertise needed for optimal deployment in DoD facilities."

The news comes amid recent criticism from the General Accountability Office (GAO) that DoD has spent billions of dollars and more than a decade to implement an effective EHR solution, but ended up with a system the GAO described as having "significant performance problems."

In a report published in October, GAO concluded that after DoD had spent approximately $2 billion over the 13-year life of its Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) initiative to acquire an EHR system, DoD had, as of September 2010, delivered various capabilities for outpatient and dental care documentation, but had scaled back other capabilities it had originally planned to deliver, such as replacement of legacy systems and inpatient care management.

The report also found that users continued to experience significant problems with performance such as speed, usability, and availability of the portions of the system that have been deployed.

"DoD has initiated efforts to improve system performance and enhance functionality and plans to continue its efforts to stabilize the AHLTA system through 2015, as a 'bridge' to the new electronic health record system it intends to acquire," GAO said.

It is against this background that General Dynamics and MPT, which is part of McKesson, a healthcare services and IT company and a provider of a certified EHR system, will help DoD transition from its legacy systems and address EHR performance issues to enhance the department's ability to provide medical care to its 9.6 million active duty service members, their families, and other eligible beneficiaries worldwide.

James Walsh, senior VP at McKesson, said his company has deep expertise in what's required to deploy clinical systems, drive adoption, and improve outcomes. "We believe our knowledge can benefit the military health community,” he said in a statement. "Through the proposed relationship with General Dynamics, we are excited about the opportunity to offer a single solution with the capability to modernize how the DoD provides care to its millions of beneficiaries."

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