Coast Guard Hops on Defense Department's Cerner Pact

The United States Coast Guard will finally be digitizing its health records.

Image courtesy USCG's Flickr page.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) will finally be digitizing its health records.

The military branch, which has been using paper health records for the past few years after a series of electronic health records (EHR) deals fell through, will now be included in the $4.3 billion contract that the Department of Defense (DoD) signed with Cerner in 2016. A new presolicitation notice posted on FedBizOpps this week outlines the plan. Tech and logistics contractor Leidos has been tasked with assisting in the transition.

Earlier this year, the agency’s paper practices were scrutinized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). David Powner, the IT Management Director of GAO, called USCG’s lack of an EHR “inefficient and dangerous” during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

During that hearing, members of Congress urged USCG representatives to join DoD and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) in adopting Cerner’s platform. “Why would you not use DoD’s solution?” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) asked. “Why waste money and time to go look for things that exist already, right now?”

USCG Rear Admiral Michael J. Haycock indicated during that January meeting that the agency had considered that option. According to the new presolicitation notice, USCG formally requested its inclusion in the DoD contract on March 22nd.

It also sheds a little light on the DoD and VA deals: the MHS Genesis solution designed for the military health systems will include update options as future capabilities become available. Some capabilities aren’t covered in the DoD’s Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization license agreement, it notes. The new document modifies the ask to allow DoD “ordering of all services and additional capabilities necessary to maintain a standard solution baseline with the VA and USCG,” once their implementations take place.

“The USCG's analysis indicated that all of its requirements would be satisfied by the MHS GENESIS solution and that it would achieve the same critical benefits of a single standard solution as DoD and VA,” according to the new posting.

Of course, that’s assuming VA and DoD’s transitions go smoothly. The VA announced the decision to adopt Cerner nearly a year ago, but still hasn’t finalized a contract—and that might be on hold following the President’s dismissal of David Shulkin as the agency’s Secretary. The DoD did begin transitioning its facilities in the Pacific Northwest to the new MHS Genesis system. While Cerner touted early successes, the transition was promptly halted after it was met with a glut of problems and complaints.

No timeline has been given for USCG’s new arrangement, and the document says, “Be advised that the aforementioned information is anticipatory in nature and is not binding.”

Last week, the Department of State announced that it was searching for a new EHR system for its health organization.

Related Coverage:

State Department Seeks New EHR System

Coast Guard Questioned on Its (Lack of) EHR Practices

Cerner Touts Early Successes in DoD EHR Transition, but VA Deal Still in Limbo