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Air Force dedicated to successful transition of medical facilities to Defense Health Agency

  • Published
  • By Shireen Bedi
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

The Air Force Medical Service remains dedicated to the successful transition of military treatment facilities to the Defense Health Agency, working in partnership with them and sister services.

In the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the transfer of all MTFs to the DHA with the goal of standardizing health care delivery and operations. Since then, AFMS leadership has been intimately engaged in standing up DHA’s capabilities, formalizing processes, mitigating risks, and collaboratively addressing challenges.

Helping to execute these seismic changes and championing the transition remains one of the chief priorities for AFMS leaders. As Maj. Gen. Robert Miller, Director, Medical Operations explains, supporting the transition of MTFs to the DHA allows the AFMS to increase its focus on readiness and ensures there are no gaps in patient care.

“The Air Force needs the DHA to be successful in this initiative to support our MTFs and ultimately supporting all of our patients we have the pleasure to serve,” said Miller. “That is why we have put in so much effort and pay attention to every detail, whether it is transitioning manpower or clarifying what work needs to be done.”

In 2018, the AFMS formally set up a Transition Cell consisting of subject matter experts whose primary focus is on the process of transitioning MTFs to DHA, developing ways to better partner with their DHA counterparts and sister services throughout the transition.

“The Transition Cell has been at the forefront of this massive undertaking and it has helped us collaborate effectively with DHA,” said Col. Bradley Weast, AFMS Transition Cell chief. “It is no small endeavor. We are effectively helping establish what will be the ninth largest health care system in the United States.”

The process of transitioning MTFs from three separate services to the DHA has been a multi-year process, and requires the significant support from the services to move over capabilities and the people to support them. A memorandum of agreement between the AFMS and DHA was signed in July 2019 and outlines how collectively each would provide direct support to the MTFs until DHA becomes fully capable. The AFMS is expected to provide direct support through September of this year.

“Each capability the DHA will take on has sub-functions, programs and people associated with it, and each of the services has had a unique way of executing those capabilities and functions,” said Weast. “What we are doing is providing DHA a playbook that breaks everything down to its basic elements. If there is a disagreement or disconnect, we would then develop collaboratively any mitigation strategy so we can maintain uninterrupted MTF support.”

In the last year, all aspects of military medicine was impacted by COVID-19. While there was a temporary pause in transition activities, the AFMS Transition Cell continued to work. Despite these and other challenges, Miller explains the Transition Cell remains focused on the end goal of standing up the capabilities to fully transition all MTFs to the DHA.

“Every time we talk about transitioning and transforming, I am reminded of the Chief of staff of the Air Force’s focus on accelerate change or lose,” said Miller. “That focus is brought into our support for the transition. We have been embracing change or we risk losing. We have given everything the DHA needs from us to ensure they are set up for success. At the end of the day it is about delivering high quality patient care and a smooth transition means we can continue to do just that.”