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Transforming medical health service

Madigan Army Medical Center playing key role

Defense Health Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Place speaks to soldiers about the Military Health System transformation. Photo credit: Jeanine Mezei

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With the goal of transforming health services and reducing duplication created by individual medical commands, the Army, Navy and Air Force have begun the final two years of a multi-year transfer of administration and management responsibilities to the Defense Health Agency (DHA).

Established in October 2013, the DHA is the military medical combat support agency which enables the service branches to provide a medically ready force to combatant commands during times of peace and war.

In line with this history, Madigan is spearheading an initiative to attract more of its beneficiaries to take advantage of surgery options available at military hospitals.

"Madigan is taking the lead with some administrative and facilitation from the Puget Sound Military Health System," wrote Lt. Col. (Dr.) Daniel Cuadrado, deputy chief of surgery, in an email.

"We have a strong history of collaborating with Naval Hospital Bremerton and Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor to identify and implement best practices and integrated care."

The Puget Sound Military Health System is an integrated healthcare market that includes Army, Navy and Air Force hospitals and clinics in western Washington.

The system provides care to more than 281,000 local TRICARE beneficiaries, and it works to provide high quality medical care and achieve a seamless patient experience for active-duty service members, retirees and their families.

"The collaborative efforts with the Puget Sound MHS is the future of military medicine under the Defense Health Agency," continued Cuadrado.

In October 2019, all military medical treatment facilities in the United States and across all branches of the military were joined under the DHA. This milestone was put into motion by the Defense Authorization Act of 2017.

Congress mandated that a single agency administer and manage all military hospitals and clinics to sustain and improve operational medical force readiness and to improve beneficiaries' access to care, improve health outcomes and eliminate redundancies in medical costs across the Army, Navy and Air Force run systems.

The motivating factors for this transformation are two-fold: First, to offer surgical and specialty consultation and evaluation to all TRICARE eligible beneficiaries; and second, to support the DHA's Quadruple Aim of readiness, better health, better care and lower costs.

The DHA's endeavors are global as it encompasses almost 450 military hospitals and clinics as it supports the delivery of integrated, affordable and high-quality healthcare to 9.5 million active-duty service members, retirees, reservists, Guardsmen, and their families at military hospitals and clinics or through the TRICARE network.

"Ultimately, what this transition means ... is a more integrated, efficient and effective system of care for patients," explained Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, former DHA director, in a 2019 interview.

"The integration of healthcare services leads to a more standardized and consistent experience of care for our patients."

Madigan's key partner in its initiative to attract more beneficiaries is Naval Hospital Bremerton, and the Army medical center is working to extend this opportunity to nearly 150,000 beneficiaries in the Puget Sound area.

"They shouldn't notice that it was an Army medicine facility, Navy medicine facility, Air Force facility and now it's a DHA facility," said Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, the DHA's current director, said in a Jan. 6 interview.

"Military patients will ‘absolutely positively' see better care after the merger."

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, however, recently voiced concern that the merger between the branches of service and DHA is not without its problems.

If the merger occurs "too fast, you can make a mess," McCarthy later said at a Defense Writers Group meeting in Washington Jan. 15.

Consolidation under DHA is scheduled to be completed by October 2021.

Credits: and contributed to this article.

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