Skip to main content

Military Health System

Pandemic underscores MHS’ need for reform, McCaffery tells AMSUS

Image of Army soldier gets nose swab. Army Sgt. Toni-Moi Dewar, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Kenner Army Health Clinic’s Active Duty Clinic performs a COVID-19 swab of a soldier at Fort Lee in Virginia. (U.S. Army photo)

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Department of Defense (DOD) is moving forward with its plans to integrate and optimize all Military Health System components after pausing to focus on national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffery announced Dec. 8 in remarks to the annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals.

“An important lesson learned as a result of the pandemic is that marshalling the Department’s vast medical assets to quickly respond to a requirement on the scale of a pandemic is challenging when those assets are separately managed by four distinct entities,” McCaffery told the military and federal medical professionals who attended the virtual meeting.

During his 2019 AMSUS speech he announced that he had asked MHS senior leadership to develop and codify a formal strategic framework to guide the integration and optimization of all MHS components. MHS senior leadership is composed of the Army, Navy, and Air Force surgeons general as well as the Joint Staff surgeon; the Defense Health Agency director; and the president of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHS had embarked on reforms and initiatives to improve its medical support to the armed services.

Those reforms were intended to “develop a long-term strategic framework to help all MHS components to better coordinate and integrate their efforts and our shared mission of ensuring a ready medical force,” McCaffery said, but the pandemic forced a pause in several reform initiatives to ensure the MHS could properly focus on supporting the DOD and all government pandemic responses.

The MHS leadership team has resumed this effort to develop this long-term strategy, he noted. In November, the secretary “lifted the pause on activities supporting the transition of the management of all [Medical Treatment Facilities] MTFs from the services to the DHA and directed resumption of the department’s implementation plan to complete the transition by Sept. 30, 2021,” McCaffery said.

“The pandemic experience has underscored the need for a consolidated enterprise management of our health care system. Managing the department’s critical medical assets, under an enterprise framework, allows the health system to more effectively support the military departments’ man, train, and equip responsibilities that support a ready medical force,” he explained.

Having the private sector care under the TRICARE Health Plan and the DOD’s more than 700 military hospitals and clinics “under one joint agency will allow us to have standardized health care delivery policies and business practices across the entire military health system,” McCaffery said, “and that will go a long way to reducing undesirable variation for both providers and patients and improve our beneficiaries’ experience.”

The primary driver for this change is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. Congress mandated that a single agency will be responsible for the administration and management of all military hospitals and clinics to sustain and improve operational medical force readiness and the medical readiness of military members, improve beneficiaries' access to care and experience of care, improve health outcomes, and eliminate redundancies in medical costs and overhead across separate systems operated by the Army, Air Force and Navy.  DHA will be responsible for health care delivery and business operations across the Military Health System including budgets, information technology, health care administration and management, administrative policies and procedures, and military medical construction.

The impending COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration effort is testament to the DHA’s increasing role in standardizing and coordinating military medical strategy and Direct CareDirect care refers to military hospitals and clinics, also known as “military treatment facilities” and “MTFs.”direct care.

On Nov. 3, the Secretary of Defense established a DOD COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Operational Planning Team following release of the Trump Administration’s plan.

“The Defense Health Agency was directed in partnership with the Joint Staff to develop a standardized and coordinated strategy for prioritizing, distributing, and administering a COVID-19 pandemic vaccine through a phased approach to all active duty service members, their dependents and to all of our 9.6 million beneficiaries,” McCaffery said.

Military Health System dollars and people are central to the success of the government’s Operation Warp Speed to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to the U.S., McCaffery explained.

McCaffery stated that the initial COVID-19 military vaccination efforts will focus on those “critical to the response, providing direct care, and maintaining societal mission-essential functions, as well as those at highest risk for developing severe illness.”

In the U.S., four companies are in clinical trials with vaccines to combat COVID-19 (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen), and there are six vaccine candidates across three platforms: nucleic acid (Pfizer, Moderna), viral vector (AstraZeneca, Janssen) and protein sub-unit (Novavax, Sanofi).

One or two vaccines – from Pfizer and Moderna – are expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration soon. Both companies have applied for emergency use authorizations.

“Throughout this pandemic, the department must ensure we can continue to maintain its military readiness and ensure our national security,” McCaffery said. “As such, in addition to conducting clinical/diagnostic testing, the department established a tiered testing framework, that prioritizes testing service members and personnel associated with vital national security missions, our engaged field forces, and forward deployed or redeploying forces.”

That support also has included civilian health care facilities, especially in the hardest hit areas of the pandemic last spring and into the fall surge.

“From the onset of COVID-19, the department has mobilized more than 7,000 doctors, nurses, and medical technicians – both active duty and reserve – to support many civilian health systems, including deployment of military health care professionals in direct support of hospitals and alternate care facilities,” McCaffery said. “This support has been critical to the hardest-hit communities and enabled their hospitals to sustain operations in the midst of unprecedented demand for their services. These communities were in desperate need of help and it was the military health system that provided it.”

On a different front, MHS moved quickly to direct its medical research and development capability to support the national effort to respond to COVID-19, he noted.

“We leveraged our prior investments that built an infectious disease research, development, and manufacturing infrastructure and our ongoing research on medical countermeasures to support the all-of-government effort to develop and manufacture vaccines and therapeutics to fight the virus,” McCaffery said.

One of the first approved therapeutics for COVID-19, remdesivir, was part of a DOD-sponsored research effort. Five MTFs are enrolling for the AstraZeneca vaccine clinical trial. The DOD also is supporting the development of Inovio’s vaccine.

Another major initiative that has been resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic is the deployment of the unified electronic health record (EHR) system called MHS GENESIS.

“Like our broader reforms, MHS GENESIS represents a concerted push toward standardization, integration and readiness,” McCaffery told AMSUS. There have been three waves of implementation that have launched MHS GENESIS at 19 military medical treatment facility commands since its rollout in 2017. Five additional waves will Go-Live in 2021.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is deploying the same EHR, “ensuring a seamless transition for service members during their career and into retirement,” he noted.

You also may be interested in...

It's Final! Last MHS GENESIS Staff Q&A Ahead of Spring 2023 MHS GENESIS Transition

Article Around MHS
1/27/2023
Military personnel in auditorium at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

With less than two months before the transition to MHS GENESIS, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) MHS GENESIS and Leidos Partnership Defense Health (LPDH) host the final MHS GENESIS Staff Q&A. See how the topics addressed will help providers and staff navigate MHS GENESIS more efficiently.

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | MHS GENESIS: The Electronic Health Record | MHS GENESIS

Genome Sequencing Assists Research at Naval Health Research Center

Article
1/24/2023
Lab technicians doing genome research

Learn how unique samples from naval vessels, US-Mexico border populations, and DOD beneficiaries aided in the Naval Health Research Center’s sequencing efforts.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

U.S. Military HIV Research Lends Lessons Learned to COVID-19

Article
1/19/2023
Gloved hands working in laboratory

The U.S. military has engaged in HIV research for three decades, contributing critical lessons learned, knowledge, and expertise during the COVID-19 research and vaccine development effort.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | DOD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program | Research & Innovation | Coronavirus

Naval Medical Research Center Uses Genome Sequencing for Variants

Article
1/12/2023
Military personnel pose for a group photo

NMRC’s efforts provided important support for sequencing and viral isolation to the Department of Defense and Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

USAMRIID Focuses on Genome Sequencing to Detect Variants

Article
1/5/2023
Military medical personnel in laboratory

A connected family of laboratories across the MHS allows a more rapid response to the outbreak.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

Whole Genome Sequencing at Tripler Army Medical Center

Article
12/29/2022
Dr. Keith Fong reviews data with other lab technicians

The third installment in a 6-part series highlighting the efforts of the Military Health System laboratories and the technicians who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Research & Innovation | Coronavirus

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Implements SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing

Article
12/23/2022
Military medical personnel in laboratory

This is the second article in a 6-part series that highlights the work of technicians and scientists in Military Health System laboratories who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Research & Innovation

Protect Yourself With Respiratory Illnesses on the Rise

Article Around MHS
12/19/2022
Military medical personnel administering vaccine

"Tis the season, and respiratory illnesses are on the rise. Learn critical health guidance about the viral triple threat of COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, and the commonsense steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunization Tool Kit | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Immunization Healthcare Division

Military Labs Use Whole Genome Sequencing of COVID-19 Variants

Article
12/16/2022
Lab technician at work

The first in a 6-part series highlighting the work of technicians and scientists working in support of the MHS who identified COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

DOD Reduces Health Care Waste by Reusing Crutches

Article
12/15/2022
Military personnel using crutches

When military facilities faced a national shortage of an essential mobility aid, they launched a grassroots initiative that not only ensured patient care, but also created a new waste reduction model within the DHA.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

MHS Minute | Nov 2022

Video
12/12/2022
MHS Minute | Nov 2022

The latest MHS Minute focuses on highlights from DHA Director Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place’s final virtual town hall with the workforce, Nov. 16, 2022. The discussion included the agency’s biggest accomplishments over the past three years and the impact of COVID-19 on DHA’s reputation and approach to health care delivery.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

Flu Season’s Here: You Still Can Get Your Flu Shot for Protection

Article
12/12/2022
Flu Week Infographic

It’s not too late to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare Division | Immunization Tool Kit | Vaccine Recommendations | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | National Immunization Awareness Month 2022 | Immunizations | Winter Safety

Naval Medical Research Center Joint Study with Mount Sinai Uncovers Differences in COVID-19 Immune Response between the Sexes

Article Around MHS
12/5/2022
Amanda Cherry, research assistant, performing diagnostic testing at NMRC

A collaborative study between researchers at Naval Medical Research Center and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Princeton University has highlighted immune response differences in the coronavirus infection responses between male and female patients.

Recommended Content:

Medical Research and Development | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

Get Protected With New COVID-19 Booster and Flu Vaccine

Article Around MHS
10/24/2022
Military medical personnel administering vaccine

There are two vaccines you should consider getting this Fall, and now you can get them both at the same time.

Recommended Content:

Immunizations | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Holds Town Hall in Advance of DHA Transition

Article Around MHS
10/24/2022
Military personnel speaks at NMCPHS town hall event

The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center held a town hall meeting on Oct. 12 at their Portsmouth, Virginia, headquarters, in advance of their transition to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Public Health directorate.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Military Health System Transformation
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 40
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 07, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery