Pat Flanders, the chief information officer (CIO) at the Defense Health Agency (DHA), said today that the biggest thing he wants to improve within his agency going forward is not IT, but procurement.

At a Feb. 24 webinar hosted by Federal News Network, Flanders said he would like to see a “singling up” of procurements in order to better protect and secure his network.

“Moving forward what are we going to do to improve?… probably the biggest thing isn’t IT – it’s procurement,” Flanders said. “It’s singling up the procurement, so that we’re not buying one of everything, right. We want to single up to a few vendors for each area, and then standardize that across the MHS [Military Health System] to kind of reduce the attack surface.”

Flanders explained that the Department of Defense (DoD) is currently fielding its new electronic health records (EHR) management system, known as Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS. The DoD is about 50 percent fielded with the new system, Flanders said, and expects to complete the process by the fourth quarter of 2024.

However, in fielding this new EHR system, Flanders said it has been difficult to secure the many different procurements.

“Right now across the Department of Defense when we field GENESIS, we’re hooking up network-enabled medical devices to the system. And so we hook up what they had,” Flanders said. “Since there wasn’t an enterprise approach to those procurements, we have 27 brands of pick a medical device, and that’s very difficult to secure. It creates a lot of variation in how the gear is used, sustainment of it, [and] protecting it cyber wise.”

“So, I’d really like to see that get singled up, and kind of as part of the modernization, to make the environment less complex, more stable, and more consistent in terms of its use across the whole MHS,” Flanders added.

Flanders said his team’s motto is, “we want to make IT boring again,” meaning they want providers to come into the hospital and know they will always have “a seamless experience” when it comes to IT.

“Getting to that level of, just consistency, and you don’t even know the IT’s running in the background – that’s where we’re trying to go,” Flanders said.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.