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Air Force Medical Service unveils new model for active duty care

Air Force Medical Service logo (MHS graphic) Air Force Medical Service logo (MHS graphic)

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. —  In an effort to return more Airmen to duty quicker, the Air Force is rolling out a new medical model to restore the overall readiness of our military.

Under the new Air Force Medical Reform model, dedicated provider care teams will be aligned to an Operational Medical Readiness Squadron primarily focused on proactively treating active duty Airmen and improving their availability to support the warfighting mission. Care for non-active duty patients, primarily the families of service members and military retirees, will be handled by separate provider teams aligned to a Health Care Operations Squadron.

“This new structure optimizes both functions and allows us to return airmen back to full mission capability as quickly as possible without decrementing care to our beneficiaries,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Corby, chief of Medical Manpower and Personnel, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General. “Restructuring where care is delivered lets our providers focus on each group to improve the quality of care, create efficiencies, and most importantly, get injured or ill Airmen back into the fight more quickly.”

The model is based on a pilot the 366th Medical Group, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho began in summer 2018. The group reorganized into two squadrons with the goal of returning Airmen to duty as quickly as possible.

The pilot initially launched as part a wing-wide initiative for the 366th Fighter Wing. Since the initial rollout, the 366th MDG has seen promising results.

“We had more than 400 Airmen on the base who were considered “non-mission capable” when we launched in March 2018,” said Air Force Col. Steven Ward, the 366th MDG commander. “In six months, we reduced that number by nearly one-fourth. Our provider teams focused relentlessly on getting Airmen back into the fight.”

Provider teams were able to holistically treat Airmen instead of waiting for an Airman to seek out care. They visit with Airmen in their duty locations to understand the personal and workplace challenges they face, and partner with unit leaders to proactively manage Airmen’s care and minimize downtime.

“It was a real culture change for our provider teams, focusing just on Airmen and building relationships with their assigned squadron and leadership,” said Ward. “That narrow focus really helps providers get to know their patients and solve health problems before they can negatively affect the mission.”

The renewed focus on readiness and returning Airmen to duty goes hand-in-hand with other reform efforts within the Air Force Medical Service and the Military Health System. Corby emphasized cooperation with the Defense Health Agency, as they assume a larger role at Military Treatment Facilities.

“As we become a more integrated enterprise, it’s very important for us to learn from each other,” said Corby. “The current version of Air Force Medical Reform isn’t final. It will continue to evolve as we roll it out to other locations, and get a better understanding of each Active Duty population’s specific needs.”

The AFMS plans to initially rollout the new medical organization model to 43 Air Force MTF within the continental United States. Medical centers, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, graduate medical education facilities, overseas MTFs, and limited scope facilities will not initially move to the new organizational model.

The next phase of Medical Health System reforms will administratively transition the MTFs of all military services to DHA responsibility Oct. 1, 2019.

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