Major (Ret.) William Lyles
I have always wanted to work in an area that requires athletic skills. From original aspirations of being a baseball player to my eventual calling as a member of the U.S. Army and Green Berets, I have always loved physical activity.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2010, my unit came under heavy fire in Afghanistan. During the attack, I stepped on an improvised explosive device. As a result of the explosion and infections that followed, I had to receive partial amputations in both legs. I am now a bilateral above-the-knee amputee, restricting my physical activities.
I am incredibly grateful to the Military Health System (MHS) for saving my life. And much of my experiences with the system over the past 11 years have been positive. However, I have also seen firsthand areas that could be improved with a more advanced electronic health record (EHR) system.
I’ve recently transitioned to care under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but as a long-time patient of the MHS, I support efforts to improve the system so that my brothers and sisters in the military and their families receive the best care possible.
That’s why I’m joining as a patient champion of an advisory group the IBM-Epic team assembled as part of its bid for the Department of Defense’s Healthcare Management System Modernization (DHMSM) contract. The goal of the advisory group is to share best practices from already successful EHR system implementations in the private sector.
My role will be to share learnings from my time as a patient in the MHS to help the team keep the patient perspective top of mind throughout the process. I am already participating in pre-planning meetings as the IBM-Epic team ramps up its capabilities. I will continue to participate even as the system goes live if the team is awarded the contract.
One area I’d like to provide guidance on is patient health data. After I was wounded in Afghanistan and arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in Texas, my doctors were initially unable to view my medical history because it was still located at Fort Bragg, where I had previously received care. I had to re-explain my situation to the new doctors.
Another time, when I was completing my medical board, the VA and the Department of Defense’s EHR systems did not communicate well with each other. As a result, the process took longer than I expected, especially when I was trying to appeal certain decisions.
Even on active duty, my medical records were misplaced. When I moved from one duty station to the next, my records were mailed instead of shared electronically, sometimes causing confusion. I even heard stories of others whose entire records were lost.
With DHMSM, MHS can better address these situations, and improve care for our military members who are still serving and will serve in the future. DHMSM would keep the MHS connected with the VA, the Social Security Administration and others.
Through the advisory group, I will be able to use my experiences to share insights on how patients participate in the current system and ways they could benefit from the new system. For example, my experiences reinforced the need for our military men and women to have new tools to help them take more ownership of their care. I’m encouraged by what this new system can do to that
But on a more personal level, the group will give me a platform to support soldiers, just like I did in the Army.
For more information about the IBM/Epic DHMSM team, please visit onemilitaryhealth.com.