FORT HOOD — Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center will transfer from being managed by Army Medicine to the Defense Health Agency by Oct. 1, but patients should not see any difference in the way they receive care, according to the director of DHA.
U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, DHA director, visited the Army hospital on Monday to talk about the transition and what it means for the service members, retirees and their families who receive their care from the Darnall system.
“Let’s start with the patients first, because I really think that’s the most important piece,” Bono said. “What we’re doing is bringing all the military treatment facilities under the administration and management of DHA, and what that allows us to do is make sure we are really creating an integrated system for all of our patients.”
Basically, the move will standardize how patients access care and make appointments, regardless of what duty station they may be sent to and regardless of which branch of service that location is, she said. Patients will also have a greater access to their own medical records at all times and their physicians will have instant access to those records as well, negating the need to hand carry records during a permanent change of station move.
“Whether you’re at Darnall, or Brooke (Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas) or whether you’re at a naval facility or even an Air Force facility ... being able to create an integrated system for our patients is where we’d like to go,” Bono said. “For Darnall here, what we’re hoping to be able to do is help make sure we’re continuing to support the operational mission here at III Corps and make sure they have all they need to be medically ready.”
The wars in Southwest Asia over the past 18 years have show that standardizing health techniques and policies across the Department of Defense must be a priority for increasing efficiency, she said.
“What we’ve learned on the battlefield is that our best outcomes for our patients are when we work together,” Bono said. “In this conflict, we’ve got one of the lowest fatality rates ever, of all the conflicts. What we know helped create that success was our ability to work across Army, Air Force and Navy (medicine) and fully utilize the expertise each service brings to the battlefield. What we want to do is emulate that high degree of performance and high degree of reliability with our care in garrison.”
The hospital staff are already prepared for the transition, a requirement for all military hospitals as outlined in the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
“(Darnall) is committed to executing the requirements outlined in the National Defense Authorization Acts,” said Col. David Gibson, hospital commander. “Throughout this transformation process, we will remain committed to the highest quality of care for all our beneficiaries. We will continue to ensure medical readiness, support wartime requirements and enhance the quality of care for soldiers and their families.”
Service members transitioning out of the military will also have an easier time moving into the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.
“This is what’s really exciting: Part of what we’re doing at the Defense Health Agency is strengthening that connection with the VA as well,” Bono said. “Both the VA and DoD are going to be using the exact same medical record. That means that a longitudinal record of a patient who goes from DoD to VA, and maybe even go back to DoD, the providers will have the complete record available to them.”
Streamlining the medical records system allows the VA to immediately access veterans’ past military medical histories, which will also help speed up the process of filing disability claims, she said.
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