Walter Reed moves to new medical tracking system

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center this week turned on a computerized system that hospital officials hope will eliminate the highly publicized problems of wounded soldiers returning from Iraq waiting weeks for treatment and instructions on continuing care.

Walter Reed's clinicians and case workers, who guide wounded soldiers through the military health system scheduling medical treatments and helping file paperwork for benefits, now use the Military Medical Tracking System (MMTS) to quickly schedule appointments, track soldiers' documents needed to apply for benefits and double check if appointments have been kept.

The tracking system, which provides a single view of all medical information on a soldier, replaces a mostly balkanized, paper-based appointment system, in which case managers misplaced or lost documents, delaying for weeks treatment and processing of benefits.

Col. Franklin Rowland, chief information officer at Walter Reed, told Government Executive the new tracking system was built to avoid what has happened to wounded soldiers like Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, who ended up at Walter Reed in 2004 after suffering a head wound during combat in Iraq which resulted in the loss of his left eye and a traumatic brain injury.

Shannon told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month that when Walter Reed put him on outpatient status in November 2004, he spent "a couple of weeks" sitting in his room waiting for appointments and "wondering when someone would contact me about my continuing medical care." Shannon said he searched through his paperwork, and after a series of phone calls finally managed to track down his case manager, who "was somewhat distressed" she had not been able to locate him, and immediately started to schedule clinical appointments.

Rowland says the tracking system pulls information from three existing Defense Department health networks: one that stores soldiers' electronic health records on outpatient procedures, another with in-patient data, and a third that the Medical Evaluation Board uses to determine if a soldier should be discharged or returned to active duty. As a platform, the system uses a scheduling system that already was under development called the Patient Appointment System.

Col. Dave Jones, an internal medicine specialist who headed up the development of PAS and also serves as chief of health plan management at Walter Reed, said PAS originally was developed to help commanders at the hospital track clinical appointments. But the additional health information and functionality of the tracking system also allows case managers to follow up with the patients and clinics to check if appointments have been kept and schedule other appointments if needed.

The system also warns cased workers and hospital administrators if the workload at various clinics has reached capacity and if increased staffing is needed to avoid the problem of soldiers waiting weeks for appointments.

Col. Francis McVeigh, head of the Walter Reed optometry service and chief of the hospital's clinical informatics division, said that after the news of poor treatment at Walter Reed surfaced in February, he, his staff and Rowland mounted an aggressive campaign to streamline the patient tracking process within the hospital and develop a system which would make it easier for case managers to electronically assist soldiers.

The tracking system is separate from the Veterans Tracking Application system, which the Veterans Affairs Department launched this week. Clinicians throughout the VA hospital system use that system.

Rowland said Walter Reed has started to eliminate the paper medical record gap between his hospital and VA facilities by converting paper records to PDF files and transmitting them to the VA when a patient is transferred. Walter Reed also is electronically transmitting radiological images to VA facilities.

McVeigh said the fast development and fielding of the new tracking system shows that sometimes it is better to develop an information system from the ground up rather than from the top down. While the Defense Department had a policy to develop health care information technology systems from the top down, the requirements for the new tracking system at Walter Reed were so compelling that the hospital had no choice but to develop its own system, McVeigh said. The process, he added, was more efficient than waiting for a top-down system.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.