Users complain CHCS II is slow, unreliable

James Reardon, CIO of the Military Health System, acknowledged CHCS II is having problems with the workload as it is rolled out to more sites.

Henrik G. de Gyor

DOD enterprise health system deployment is on hold, according to some reports

The military's new health care system has had so many problems in the past three months that some sites have gone back to old ways of recording patient information.

Some users and a staff member of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations say the Defense Department suspended CHCS II use in May until problems could be worked out.

But Defense officials and the lead contractor, Integic Corp. of Chantilly, Va., dispute the reports of its suspension although they acknowledge significant CHCS II problems since late April.

Dr. Robert Wah, a Navy Medical Corps captain who works on CHCS II, said DOD has not ordered an official hold. But he said some users have decided not to employ the Microsoft Windows system until it becomes more stable.

'There are still some speed issues that people are working on real hard,' Wah said. 'There are people who are not putting CHCS II in at new sites until they see the speed issue completely resolved. But there has never been a time when we stopped using it.'

Wah said the aggressive deployment schedule will be altered by the problems.

At a recent House hearing, James Reardon, CIO of the Military Health System, acknowledged CHCS II is having problems with the workload as it is rolled out to more sites. He said the situation is similar for other large IT systems.

Reardon added that some companies are eager to know how DOD is moving to a centralized health data repository. 'The private sector is very interested. We've done a number of demonstrations,' he said.

As far as some Navy users are concerned, however, CHCS II should be ditched.

'The medical record'and the means to get a medical record'is hard to read,' said a user who requested anonymity.

Challenging deployment

Larry Albert, senior vice president and health care practice leader at Integic, said he has heard many user complaints over the past three months and that deployment has been extremely challenging.

Albert said a team of engineers from Integic and subcontractors Oracle Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and 3M Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., recently conducted tests of the system.

Oracle identified some problems with the underlying database management system in May, he said, and upgraded it to a new version. Hewlett-Packard identified problems with the input-output configuration of the storage area network.

Since then, things have been running better, Wah said.

'I think the immediate issues of slowness and pauses have been addressed,' he said. 'In the future, I think we are better prepared if other issues like this come up.'

Supporters and critics alike agreed that they expect more problems, some of them in moving patient records from the old CHCS to the new database.

'It is not realistic to think we're going to roll out a big system like this without any issues or challenges,' Wah said.

Over the next 30 months, the Defense Department will log about 9 million military members and beneficiaries into CHCS II, which at full deployment will serve about 100 hospitals and 500 clinics. Rollout began in January to seven medical centers in the United States.

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