Technology Solutions for Medical Research

By CPT Bruce W. Barnes

In today’s military environment of tightened budgets and staffing, empowering existing staff to organize, manage, share, and edit documents quickly and easily is critical to the success of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC).

To maintain maximum efficiency, immediate access is necessary for effective collaboration on mission-critical information. With this access, USAMRMC can spend more time doing what it does best: getting new medical capabilities to those who need them. As organizations within USAMRMC evolve and as individual projects grow and move forward, managing the thousands, or even millions, of paper and electronic documents can be both time-consuming and costly. Much of this information can become buried within email systems, lost across shared drives, or even hidden somewhere on individual workstations. Consolidating information assets in a secure, centralized repository can significantly reduce the amount of time spent managing and sharing documents.

The Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) is an existing system, in place and functioning today for USAMRMC. EDMS is based on LiveLink, a commercial-off-the-shelf software product for enterprise content management from OpenText Corp. that remains on the Army’s Certificate of Networthiness list. The USAMRMC Enterprise Information Technology Project Management Office (eIT PMO) has configured and conducted extensive testing to maintain compliance with two key groups: DoD Information Assurance and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). EDMS is part of a suite of products offered by the eIT PMO. The eIT PMO, whose most recent Authority to Operate was received in June 2011, provides medical research information technology capabilities in a secure, reliable, and FDA-compliant environment.

Fully integrated, Web-based, and designed for enterprise-wide implementations, this system provides the ability to store, manage, access, edit, and collaborate on millions of files in a centrally organized and hierarchical structure tailored specifically to USAMRMC and organizational needs. Version control and audit functions promote ease of collaboration on all content, while powerful search functionality allows users to find what they need, when they need it. Users from outside of the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) may obtain account access to EDMS through an account authorization process. For new EDMS users, critical information from across their respective organizations can easily and quickly be migrated into EDMS using the familiar Windows Explorer interface. In addition, everyday users can easily accomplish bulk loading of historical documents.

Within EDMS, each command or organization maintains complete control of access, storage, and design for their organizational areas, allowing documents to be stored in a manner that is intuitive to each area. Content and information can be shared only with those chosen by the organization. Each user is in complete control of an assigned Personal Workspace area, which can be customized to suit individual preferences.

With more than 400 users so far, EDMS averages 26 new users per month and continues to expand. Its target is to have 2,000 users by 2015.

EDMS is currently used by 14 USAMRMC organizations and 15 subordinate commands. Advanced Development Medical Integrated Product Teams have recently started using EDMS in their business procedures, with more than 69 percent of the IPT chairs obtaining accounts. With the command endorsing EDMS as the enterprise solution, collaboration efforts continue to improve within USAMRMC, across other DoD agencies, and even throughout nongovernment organizations. In light of this success, the eIT PMO will continue to release future capabilities, which will allow EDMS to serve as a versatile collaborative tool for the medical research community.

If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, EDMS can help you and your organization:

  • Do you need to share and collaborate on information, not just within but also outside of AMEDD?
  • Do you work with industry and/or academia?
  • Do you have a difficult time tracking document updates and inputs?
  • Do you send documents back and forth via email, and run into mail system space limitations?
  • Do you know if you are using the latest version of a form or document?
  • Has someone else ever “accidentally” deleted a document from a shared drive?
  • Do your data need to reside on an FDA-compliant system?

  • CPT BRUCE W. BARNES is the Military Deputy Project Manager for the Enterprise Information Technology Project Management Office, USAMRMC. He holds a B.S. in information technology from the United States Military Academy. Barnes is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps Officer Basic Course and Medical Information Management Course.