Passing the EMR Test
May 16, 2013 posted by Gail Wolcott
Gail Wolcott, MC4’s test director, joined the program in 2005 and is responsible for facilitating test management solutions to maximize risk mitigation for all software acquisition activities.
Testing is not only a Department of Defense and Army requirement, it’s also an effective way to determine if products and services we plan to field are going to serve the MC4 customer well. As the MC4 test director, I oversee the regular testing of software and hardware, reviews of security and information assurance, performance and the interoperability between interfaces.
Since 2007, we’ve noticed a significant drop in help desk tickets for the MC4 electronic medical record system (EMR). Overall, we have seen an exponential drop in requests from customers for assistance from year to year. For example, in 2009, we saw a marked improvement of reliability; within one year, 7,500 open trouble tickets were reduced to just 1,275. While testing reduces risk, it will not remove all deficiencies, but it does help provide a stabilized product to our Soldiers.
There are several phases of testing. We first conduct developmental tests to determine if the product is what MC4 customers need. This takes the form of a functional acceptance test where we use subject matter experts such as providers or logisticians to test each MC4 application. Once the application is deemed mature enough to field, it is then integrated into the MC4 baseline. Several forms of integration tests (i.e. security, performance, interoperability, supportability) are then conducted to help ensure success.
We recently completed the service acceptance test for the next iteration of the EMR suite for MC4. The test was successful in helping us identify areas that need improvement. We’ll be making these adjustments before the multi-service operational test and evaluation (MOT&E) this month when we re-evaluate the EMR. Following this operational test, we’ll conduct a pre-deployment evaluation at two OCONUS locations where MC4 is used in the final fielding and support phase.
The MC4 system is subject to the usual vendor release software/hardware updates, upgrade, service packs and security updates associated with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and government-off-the-shelf (GOTS) products. As updates are released, issues will be found and tracked via the MC4 Help Desk. As software and hardware mature through their normal life cycles, there will be improvements and possible setbacks, which can impact reliability.
Finding the issues before the user finds them is the name of the game. With the use of more functional testers such as clinicians and nurses, we can provide solutions to these issues to minimize the setbacks. The system is far from perfect but testing really does put a better product in the hands of the user. The testing that we conduct is aimed at minimizing the impact of these setbacks to Soldiers and their ability to document patient care electronically. We are working to insert more realism and realistic scenarios into the test process to help detect deficiencies that can be addressed as soon as possible.
Gail Wolcott, MC4 test director, Fort Detrick, Md.
(3) Category: Commanders