Soldiers, veterans and military families will begin using the military’s new electronic health system in coming months, if all goes as planned, officials say.

The new system, called MHS GENESIS, will provide patients with a single online medical and dental record they can use interactively to access their health information, manage appointments, send and receive messages with their health care team, and see lab test results.

If you’re in the Military Health System, you will be able to access your own record anywhere through a secure website, and when you move, the same record goes with you.

When the system is ready to be forward deployed, medics will be able to interact with soldiers’ records on a hand-held device or laptop.

"MHS GENESIS is going to be a modern, secure, connected electronic health record that’s going to provide a single record for our beneficiaries," said Stacy Cummings, Program Executive Officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems. "It’s going to have the same exact look and feel for medical providers. Whether at a military treatment facility or forward deployed, they will have the same exact system to manage workflows as they’re providing medical care."

The first Army installation to get MHS GENESIS will be Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Madigan is expected to start using the system this fall, depending on how the MHS GENESIS launch goes at other military installations getting the system first, Cummings said. An Air Force base and two Navy installations in the Pacific Northwest will use the system before Madigan does.

"We’re really looking forward to getting to our first Army site at Madigan later this year and excited to deploy across the entire Military Health System," Cummings told Army Times. "There is going to be a real benefit to have the single record, the ease of moving from [military treatment facility] to MTF having not only your data with you but that ease of transition, whether it’s a PCS or temporary change of duty station."

MHS GENESIS will be launched in phases at Army installations over the next few years, Cummings said, and by 2022 it will be in place across the military worldwide, connecting the Defense Department’s 55 hospitals and more than 350 clinics through the database.

How it works

At installations where MHS GENESIS is used, personal information will be entered into each person’s record, including height, weight, immunizations, prescriptions, allergies and more.

MHS GENESIS is designed to eliminate multiple records and overlapping documentation. The one integrated system will replace the multiple systems now in use and allow health records to be standardized across the military, which will be more efficient for medical professionals caring for the 9.4 million beneficiaries of the Military Health System. 

When soldiers and families move to a new assignment, their MHS GENESIS records will follow them. If that new location doesn’t have MHS GENESIS yet, the new arrivals will revert to using Tricare Online or RelayHealth, according to MHS information released about the system.

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How to use your record

Health records will be accessed through a "patient portal" online. Patients will be able to do many tasks through MHS GENESIS, including:

  • Monitor personal health information.
  • Update your patient profile.
  • Make medical and active-duty dental appointments.
  • Send and receive secure messages to your health care team.
  • Request pharmacy refills.
  • Check lab and test results.

As MHS GENESIS goes online, patients’ previous health data will be accessible on an interface to allow medical providers to continue to use it, Cummings said.

The MHS GENESIS patient portal will replace Tricare Online at locations where MHS GENESIS is used, and when MHS GENESIS is fully in place, a patient will be able to go to any U.S. military treatment facility in the world, and the health care providers will be able to see the patient’s record, Cummings said.

Record sharing

The new system will let patients and medical professionals share records with Veterans Affairs, other military physicians and private medical practices.

Patients in the MHS who also go to commercial health care providers may be able to share information between those providers and their MHS GENESIS record.

"It depends on whether they go to a facility we have an agreement with," Cummings said. "We’re actually working with health information exchanges to be able to do a data exchange with commercial providers."

She said there are data sharing agreements with 23 health information exchanges, with three more being added this month and efforts ongoing to add more. DHMS is also working with Health and Human Services and with other organizations to expand interoperability.

When soldiers leave the service, Veterans Affairs gets a copy of their records. But it’s not certain how much of the data will be maintained at VA. That may become an issue when a soldier’s disability rating is in question.

Soon the new military medical records will record every bit of data from a recruit’s first day in the service, and that data will be shared with VA.

"One of the things we have worked very hard with is our relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs," Cummings said. "As an active-duty member is leaving, we have processes in place to be able to share that data with VA so they have access to health records at the point of care when they need it."


MHS GENESIS is coming later to forward deployed locations, where soldiers now have the Theater Medical Information Program—Joint.

While the new system is being put in place in stateside facilities, tests will be done next year to adapt it for the operational environment.

"Depending on how the tests go, we will put together a schedule for when we deploy the new capability in the theater environment," Cummings said. The system will go first to initial operating sites for testing before it is fully deployed.

Tests will help determine what the system will enable medics to do while downrange, such as ordering lab tests or resupplying equipment, for example.

The launch

The first initial operating capability site for MHS GENESIS was Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, in February. Next are Naval Hospital Oak Harbor and Naval Hospital Bremerton, both also in Washington state.

At these sites, the team is testing best practices, adapting them and looking for ways to streamline the workflow while keeping in mind the needs of all the services and individual installations, Cummings said.

Madigan will be the largest initial operating capability site to receive the system. The date that happens will be determined by how testing goes at the other sites, Cummings said.

Are records secure?

The DHMS team is using both industry and DoD measures to try to ensure patients’ data on MHS GENESIS is secure, both in garrison and in theater.

"Patient safety and the security of patient data are our two highest priorities," Cummings said. "We understand the sensitivity of that information."

Her team has worked closely with the DoD chief information officer to look at the tools used for securing data, the way it is stored and processes for detecting and handling cyber security risks, she said.

"Access to their data will be such a benefit to our beneficiaries and to soldiers who are at times away from their families," Cummings said, "and to have that confidence that their data is available and secure and in a modern system to help our medical providers provide the best possible care."

Kathleen Curthoys is editor of Army Times. She has been an editor at Military Times for 20 years, covering issues that affect service members. She previously worked as an editor and staff writer at newspapers in Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville, Alabama; Bloomington, Indiana; Monterey, California and in Germany.

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