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Military health: All for one, one for all

Military health: All for one, one for all

From left, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, president of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Navy Rear Adm. Colin Chinn, Joint Staff surgeon; Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger, Air Force surgeon general; Navy Vice Adm. Forrest Faison III, Navy surgeon general; Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Place, for the Army surgeon general; Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency; and Tom McCaffery, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. (Courtesy photo)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The whole of the Military Health System is greater than the sum of the individual services’ parts. That was the key theme of the Defense Health Agency/Department of Defense Plenary Session on Thursday morning at the 126th annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals. The meeting was held at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

“Military medicine has made its greatest contributions during the past 15 years of war,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency. Credit for this achievement doesn’t go to one service alone, she said, “but all of us working together. It’s time we replicated our successes on the battlefield at home.”

“There’s greater power in centralizing and bringing together our strengths, designing a Military Health System that’s responsive to patients’ needs,” Bono said.

Tom McCaffery, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said moving from a siloed system to a triservice-integrated operation will improve the ability to meet readiness requirements. It also will lead to better access and outcomes while lowering costs, he said.

McCaffery singled out three areas for modernization: the knowledge, skills, and abilities of health care providers; TRICARE; and MHS GENESIS.

“What’s exciting is, this is a historic opportunity to create something that’s a model for what military health and national health can become,” Bono said. Focusing on integration leads to faster decisions; streamlined planning, programming, budgeting, and execution; and standard management in military treatment facilities that will lead to “seamless care in multiservice markets, giving our patients the best outcome every time.”

Bono said outside partnerships were also an important aspect. “There’s got to be collectivism in the impact we create,” she said. “We need to recognize that we don’t have all those answers from within. So we need to partner with outside industry, because we don’t necessarily have the organic expertise to deliver.”

Rear Adm. Colin Chinn, the Joint Staff surgeon, showed a map originally created in the ’80s that showed areas of conflict. “It was a totally different world then,” he said. “The type of conflicts we’re involved in now don’t follow these neat lines, and neither do health and disease threats.”

Other panelists during the session were Maj. Gen. Ronald Place, who represented the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Nadja West; Vice Adm. Forrest Faison III, the Navy surgeon general; Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger, the Air Force surgeon general; and retired Army Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

“We’re interoperable to a point,” Ediger said. “We need to move that point further.” He said partnering with civilian medical facilities enables military trauma surgeons to keep their skills sharp and that focus needs to be renewed on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.

“None of us is doing our job for fame or glory,” Faison said. “We’re doing it to help people, and to make a difference in their lives.” To continue the success, he said, “We all have to be all in.”