On Sept. 7, the California Medical Detachment became one of the first sites to transition to the Department of Defense's unified electronic health record, MHS GENESIS.

CAL MED is a part of the second round of military treatment facilities to begin using this new $5.4 billion system, along with Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; and Naval Health Clinic Lemoore, Calif. MTFs in Washington State to include Madigan Army Medical Center, Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor and Naval Hospital Bremerton also use MHS GENESIS.

Lt. Col. Zack Solomon, the CAL MED commander, explained that prior to MHS GENESIS, the military services used multiple systems for different functions, such as dental, primary care, lab, pharmacy, and x-ray.

"MHS GENESIS allows us to integrate all of these systems into one location, which really improves our ability to view that information and to coordinate all of these processes," said Solomon.

With MHS GENESIS, patient safety will improve as records are more easily shared between providers. Through the Joint Legacy Viewer, a program compatible with MHS GENESIS, CAL MED staff will be able to view patients' previous records, and providers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and some community providers will be able to view their new MHS GENESIS records as well.

While many of the changes of MHS GENESIS will be behind the scenes, patients will notice the new Patient Portal, which replaces the secure messaging and many of the functions found on Tricare Online such as accessing test results and setting up medical appointments.

"The real benefit to the patient is the new MHS GENESIS Patient Portal which allows them to communicate with their providers with greater ease than before. It will allow them to make appointments, to renew prescriptions from the pharmacy, and to view some lab and x-ray results," said Solomon. "So essentially, it gives them better freedom and autonomy over their own healthcare."

By 2024, all MTFs will be using the new electronic health record, which means that patients' medical records will follow them as they move and they'll have greater continuity of care across the DoD, Solomon explained. As the Department of Veterans Affairs is also slated to use MHS GENESIS in the future, VA providers will eventually be able to directly view their patients' DoD health records and provide more seamless care as well.

As for CAL MED patients, while the clinic appointments will slow down for the first few weeks as staff learn the new system, in the long term Solomon expects they'll receive even better care.

"We're very excited at CAL MED to be receiving this. We think it will streamline a lot of processes and ultimately improve patient care outcomes and access," he said. "The holistic effect of these changes is that our patients will receive a higher quality of care from their military providers; this commitment to always improving their health care is exactly what our patients deserve."