Defense Dept. moves toward EMR across armed forces

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The Defense Department is making significant headway on its plan to roll out an ambulatory electronic medical record (EMR) across the entire armed forces healthcare system by 2006.

Initial implementation of the department's EMR, called Composite Health Care System II (CHCS II), began in January.

According to William Winkenwerder, MD, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, the system works off a central data repository which "creates a capability for us to have real-time query and retrieval of information from our system across all locations." Both IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. provided systems and support for the construction of the EMR.

The use of IT to improve the delivery of healthcare is not a new concept for the department. Winkenwerder said that the organization has had a computer physician order entry (CPOE) system in place for hospitals as well as a pharmacy management system that performs drug-drug reaction checks.

More than 1,000 healthcare providers are using the EMR system today. The CHCS II has been fully deployed at three Army hospitals - Fort Eustis, Va.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Lee, Va. - and for Air Force hospitals - at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.; Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas; and Langley Air Force Base, Va. It has also been rolled out at three Navy ambulatory clinics in Portsmouth, Va.