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Trusted Care is the path to better medical care

  • Published
  • By J.D. Levite
  • Air Force Surgeon General’s Public Affairs
Trusted Care is all about transforming the Air Force Medical Service into an organization that consistently produces outcomes better than expected no matter what the operational environment. This means training medical Airmen to better engage with their patients, provide better overall care, reduce harm, and continually engage in process improvement.  


These aren’t new aims for the AFMS, which has always strived to provide the best healthcare, but Trusted Care is about applying real, practical change to help medical Airmen attain those goals. It’s something that has been ongoing for many years and will continue going forward because Trusted Care is not simple.


“Healthcare is a complex endeavor. There are a lot of things that can go wrong,” said Col. John Oh, the Air Force Medical Support Agency’s chief of Preventive Medicine. “Zero Harm seems like a utopian idea, but it’s not. That’s what this whole high-reliability organization concept is all about. If we put in some of the principles that have been successful both in healthcare and outside healthcare we can achieve Zero Harm.”


Zero Harm is a key result from an organization built on Trusted Care, and it gets there by building on a series of principals, including cultural enablers and domains of change.


The cultural enablers include ‘Duty to Speak Up,’ ‘Respect for People,’ and ‘Commitment to Resilience.’ They are guiding principles that need to be embraced across the AFMS to create a foundation for change and results.


Col. Gianna Zeh, the vice commander of the Air Force Medical Operations Agency, believes these enablers are essential to establishing a line of communication between leaders and the Airmen who work for them. She said, “Once you’re communicating people will articulate what they’re doing. Once they tell you what they’re working on, they’ll tell you what they’re struggling with.”

The domains of change include ‘Leadership Engagement,’ a ‘Culture of Safety,’ and ‘Continuous Process Improvement’ all while focusing on patient centeredness.


We’d like process improvement with a patient centered focus to become ingrained in the medical culture. Let’s make it a natural way of doing business. It’s not something new. It’s just the way we approach care,” said Col. Tim Stevens, the project officer for Trusted Care Patient Centeredness at AFMSA. “If we can make improvements in the system, we can get back to what drew many people to this area of work: providing and caring for other people.”

The more medical providers build on those principles and mold them into a patient-centered focus, the closer they get to the ultimate results of zero harm and maximizing value for the patient.

Oh said, “Ultimately it’s about providing care for the patients that we would want for ourselves. I think everyone who has been in the position of a patient or family member wants to feel like they’re being heard. When we can meet the needs of our patient population, it translates into better health, better outcomes and better readiness.”