With the transition of management of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center from Army Medicine to the Defense Health Agency scheduled to go fully into effect by Oct. 1, troops and their families will see some advantages when it comes to handling their personal health 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.
The transition will standardize how patients access care and make appointments, regardless of what duty station they go to or which branch of service that location is, she said. Patients will have access to their own medical records at all times and their new physicians will have instant access as well, eliminating 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 hospital staff are already prepared for the transition, a requirement for all military hospitals as outlined in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, and the hospital commander said ensuring the best health care for patients remains their highest priority.
“(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 leaving the military will also have an easier time transitioning 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.
The new health record system is a commercial, off-the-shelf system already proven with large health care systems around the world, Bono said.
“The particular one we have, what we call MHS Genesis, is actually a Cerner product. And Cerner has been deployed internationally and in very large health care systems in the United States,” she said. “So we know they have a proven track record. The other thing that’s very exciting about this particular healh care record is that we know we’re going to get the automatic updates and we’re going to keep pace with all that’s happening in the civilian health care.”
So why is this change occurring now?
Since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, 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.”
In the end, the change in management should really be transparent for the beneficiaries, she said.
“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.”
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