Army College Adds EMR Systems to the Syllabus

From the DoD, an interesting piece on EMR Systems:

They are the Geek Squad in camouflage, without the comical Volkswagens and black ties. They are soldiers and civilians who comprise the Army’s Combat Service Support Automation Management Office (CSSAMO) and often work in combat support hospitals (CSHs) in the desert and arrive by convoy in armed vehicles. Their expertise takes them to the frontlines where medical detachments and command and control elements require immediate assistance.

Supporting more than a dozen complex standard Army management information systems (STAMIS) in the warzone requires more than a Microsoft certification and completion of classes advertised during daytime television. It mandates an understanding of how the military works, keeping pace with the ever-changing information security landscape and a knack for getting military computer users where they need to go on the network.

The Army Logistics Management College (ALMC), responsible for training-up the Army’s IT skills, has recently thrown a new system into the mix for these tech-savvy service members: Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4). MC4 is DoD’s battlefield medical recording system which canvasses all CSHs, clinics and battalion aid stations throughout Southwest Asia, Europe and South Korea in support of OIF and OEF. The system became part of the ALMC curriculum in 2007 when the institution overhauled its entire CSSAMO training with a new learning philosophy and a renewed focus on critical information systems abroad.

“Our goal is not to teach the class to be functional experts on the systems,” said Martha Ann Spurlock, CSSAMO training director at ALMC. “They need to know what to do if applications do not work properly or if the hardware is malfunctioning. So we’ve tweaked the class so they can best fulfill their responsibilities.”

Then and Now

In 2003, ALMC held its last training class for CSSAMO personnel. By then, the course contents and materials were outdated and leadership decided to terminate the class altogether rather than overhaul it. Recognizing an opportunity, Spurlock picked up the torch to fill a void in Army training and developed a revamped program for the CSSAMO community. She talked with STAMIS personnel and systems administrators to help determine new course content and was firmly committed to developing a hands-on curriculum.

“We’ve tailored the class so that it is interactive from the moment the students step into the room,” Spurlock said. “This way, they have the knowledge and experience to support multiple systems when they go downrange. We offer a learning opportunity that really didn’t exist before we started the class in late 2007.”

Using feedback from students, Spurlock reshaped the material for the course to teach what mattered most to students. Topics that were less critical or required less attention fell to the back of the line and hot topic areas assumed center stage, like the Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced (SAM-E), the Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS), and now MC4.

ne day in ALMC’s 18-day classroom boot camp at Fort Lee, Va. is dedicated to MC4 thanks to the help of the MC4 Product Management Office, The course prepares Army IT professionals with the skills they’ll need in the combat zone to help the nation’s best doctors and nurses capture critical medical information without skipping a beat. Sustaining the systems ultimately leads to improved continuity of care and a complete medical history-useful when soldiers apply for VA medical benefits.

“If an MC4 laptop does not function properly, users will call these guys to make it work again,” Spurlock said. “The CSSAMO staff needs to know how to troubleshoot and repair the problems.”

Paying Dividends, Creating Momentum

Maj. Iva Kimbrough, CSSAMO with the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), deployed to Balad, Iraq, from June 2007 to June 2008. Prior to her arrival in theater, she did not have experience supporting STAMIS systems. She wishes she had attended the new class prior to her deployment.

“The information taught in this class is the exact assignment CSSAMO personnel have when deployed to theater,” Kimbrough said. “You set up your STAMIS network and support all of the systems we learned during the past three weeks. Coming to this class provides the valuable knowledge and experience CSSAMO personnel need in order to hit the ground running.”

Lucky to have had his training completed prior to deployment, Hayden Weekes, a support contractor for the Directorate of Logistics at Fort Dix, N.J., says his CSSAMO class provided him with a roadmap to getting problems solved more efficiently over the past 12 months.

“Previously, I would tinker with the systems to become familiar with the equipment,” Weekes said. “I would break fully functional systems and then try to make them work again. Now, I’ve learned some steps to help narrow my search for the source of system problems.”

An Extended Arm of MC4 Support Born

In 2008, MC4 initiated a three-tiered support agreement between deployed medical units, CSSAMO and S6 personnel and MC4 systems administrators in theater to ensure comprehensive assistance. Now, with a new commitment to training Army support personnel on these medical systems prior to deployment, CSSAMO will prove to be an invaluable extension of MC4 support.

It is the hope of Spurlock and MC4 that the interest and fortitude which CSSAMO personnel display during the new training will translate into benefits on the battlefield. With tens of thousands of MC4 laptops, handhelds, servers and printers dispersed throughout 200 medical treatment facilities in the war zone, much of the success on documenting patient care relies heavily on technical support provided by onsite personnel.

“I really believe that we are making a difference with this class,” Spurlock said. “This is the class that CSSAMO staff need and it is probably the closest training they receive to prepare them for their role downrange. When the CSSAMO personnel arrive, they might not have a lot of experience with all of the STAMIS systems, but when they leave, they are familiar with them and they have the tools to support them.”

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