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IT Infrastructure

Coast Guard completes on-shore MHS Genesis deployment

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed its rollout of the military's new commercial electronic health record system, following a long journey that was paused during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coast Guard completed the migration to 109 ashore locations Nov. 6 as part of the Wave Atlantic Go-Live, a representative from the Program Executive Office for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems confirmed to FCW via email. The Coast Guard will still need to migrate the new EHR system to its afloat sickbays and medical and dental radiology system, the latter of which is planned to be complete by 2024.

Vice Adm. Paul Thomas, the Coast Guard's deputy commandant for mission support, testified Tuesday that the service had completed its nationwide migration of MHS Genesis, a version of Cerner's health records system.

"I'm happy to report that we have now gone live with our electronic medical records across the country. We're the first service to achieve that," Thomas told lawmakers during a House Transportation Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing Nov. 16.

"We have struggled with IT acquisitions. And the reason for that is that we've not looked at them as operational platforms. That changed several years ago. We've now modernized how we acquire, how we set requirements, acquire and sustain our IT systems because they are operational assets just like a cutter or a ship."

The achievement comes just five months after the Defense Department announced that it had completed nearly a third of its EHR deployment and three years after the Coast Guard opted to abandon its solo acquisition of the systems and join the Pentagon's effort with MHS Genesis.

Despite progress with the EHR system, the maritime military service has mounting IT infrastructure needs and says it doesn't have the budget to cover it.

Heather MacLeod, acting director, homeland security and justice at the Government Accountability Office, testified that the Coast Guard "could better apply certain decision processes as it manages investments in these systems" to ensure that data infrastructure meets mission and user needs, including upgrades to the Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement system. The Coast Guard's IT assets include more than 400 IT systems.

"Our preliminary observations suggest that the Coast Guard lacks complete and accurate hardware, software, and other equipment. They also suggest that the Coast Guard lacks network capacity planning capabilities that would assist it in forecasting network traffic demands and categorizing and prioritizing different types of data. We will complete our reviews of the areas above and publish our results in 2022," MacLeod stated in prepared testimony.

GAO is currently reviewing Coast Guard IT infrastructure and cybersecurity issues to find gaps in applied policies, practices and management, including the relevant workforce.

In the meantime, the Coast Guard is angling for increased funding to pursue IT modernization. Thomas said the Coast Guard's tech revolution, which includes initiatives such as improving cutter vessel connectivity and bandwidth for more remote access and connectivity, is an ongoing effort and that so far the service is investing $100 million in fiscal 2022, up from about $90 million in fiscal 2021.

"That's not adequate. We are trying to catch up and then we have to keep up. So, we need...regular, reliable, predictable, recurring IT investments that are keeping up with inflation," Thomas said.

This article first appeared on FCW.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.

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