Military health is greater than sum of parts

Military health is greater than sum of parts

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Department of Defense health leaders who spoke about Military Health System reform during the 2018 meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals, stressed collaboration and commitment to implement massive organizational transformation.

“What you’re hearing is, this is a Military Health System and not an Air Force or an Army or Navy or even a Defense Health Agency system,” said Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, the Air Force surgeon general. “All the parts are required in order for MHS to be the best it can be. That’s why we’re all committed” to making sure transformation is successful.

Otherwise, Hogg said, “It fails our beneficiaries: our service men and women and our family members. And we will not let that happen.”

Hogg was one of six panelists speaking on Thursday, Nov. 29, during the 127th AMSUS annual meeting. “Change is hardest in the beginning, messiest in the middle, and easiest at the end,” she said, referring to requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal years 2017 and 2019 to transition administration of all military treatment facilities to the DHA no later than Sept. 30, 2021.

Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense for health services policy and oversight, served as panel moderator. In her opening remarks, she noted that having DHA as the single agency responsible for the administration of all MTFs is the best way to improve and sustain operational medical force readiness and medical readiness of the armed forces, improve beneficiaries’ access to care, improve health outcomes, and lower costs.

Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, DHA director, was the first panelist to speak. She said the transformation enables the MHS to create efficiencies among collective patient populations, particularly with appointment processes and pharmacy refills.

Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the Army surgeon general, noted the hospitals and clinics at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were among the inaugural group of MTFs to transition to the DHA on Oct. 1.

“It’s a model of how smooth a transition can be,” she said, noting there was no disruption in either care or the readiness mission.

“Through transformation, we’ll ensure [Army Medicine] remains a no-fail mission,” West said.

Vice Adm. Forrest Faison III, the Navy surgeon general, said the sea service “is taking advantage of the many, many opportunities that come with transformation. It will allow us to focus on our true north: ensuring we’re doing all we can to save lives and return sons and daughters home to their families.”

“If you’re going to fight tonight, you’ve got to be able to save lives tonight,” Faison said. “Every mom and dad in America is depending on us to do that.”

Navy Rear Adm. Colin Chinn, the Joint Staff surgeon, described his role as a global medical integrator. Medical interoperability is needed not just among the services, he said, but also among allied and partner nations. “They are vital to our global success,” he said.

Dr. Richard Thomas, president of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, was the final panelist to speak. He noted that the mission of USU includes educating, training, and preparing health professionals to support military and public health efforts.

“We don’t fight alone,” Thomas said, “and we certainly don’t heal alone.”

AMSUS continues through Friday, Nov. 30, in Inner Harbor, Maryland.

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