Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Pandemic underscores MHS’ need for reform, McCaffery tells AMSUS

Image of Army soldier gets nose swab. Click to open a larger version of the image. 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 | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Vaccine Trials | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Department of Defense 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...

Facemask Required

Infographic
6/4/2021
Facemask Required

While the CDC relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated people, you're still required to wear masks in health care settings. Print this poster and put it around your facility to let patients and visitors know the requirements.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

COVID-19 Vaccination Card Second Shot

Infographic
5/27/2021
COVID-19 Vaccination Card Second Shot

Keep track of your vaccination card. Tips include keeping your card on you and taking a picture of it as a backup copy.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Costs and Documentation | Coronavirus

COVID Vax Fact Children Get Vaccine

Infographic
5/19/2021
COVID Vax Fact Children Get Vaccine

Graphic saying that the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children ages 12 to 15 and that children should be vaccinated. Graphic includes the TRICARE logo on the bottom right, and outlines of medical related items on the left of the page.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Pharmacy Options During COVID-19

Infographic
5/17/2021
Pharmacy Options During COVID-19

This Infographic describes the ways your military pharmacy's operational status may changed based on local COVID-19 conditions.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Pharmacy Operations Toolkit

Pharmacy Beneficiary Options

Infographic
5/17/2021
Pharmacy Beneficiary Options

This Infographic describes your pharmacy options if your military pharmacy is closed due to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Pharmacy Operations Toolkit

Vaccines Save Lives

Infographic
5/14/2021
Vaccines Save Lives

Polio and smallpox are almost non-existent because of vaccines. We can eliminate COVID-19 if you get vaccinated. Graphic showing that vaccines work and save lives. Includes a black and white image on the top half listing polio and smallpox on the left hand side. Includes a QR code to schedule vaccination appointments, and the TRICARE logo on the bottom right of the page.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Teleworking New Normal Connect with Others

Infographic
5/12/2021
Teleworking New Normal Connect with Others

Make connections while teleworking

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient

Teleworking New Normal Eat Healthy

Infographic
5/12/2021
Teleworking  New Normal Eat Healthy

Eat healthy while teleworking

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient

Hand Sanitizer with Methanol

Infographic
5/12/2021
Hand Sanitizer with Methanol

You should avoid using hand sanitizers that contain the wood alcohol, Methanol.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

Hand Sanitizer Parent and Child

Infographic
5/12/2021
Hand Sanitizer Parent and Child

Parent giving child hand sanitizer

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

Is it COVID or Allergies Main

Infographic
5/12/2021
Is it COVID or Allergies Main

How to tell the difference between allergies and COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Symptoms of COVID-19

Teleworking New Normal Stand Up

Infographic
5/12/2021
Teleworking New Normal Stand Up

Stand up while teleworking

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient

Teleworking The New Normal

Infographic
5/12/2021
Teleworking The New Normal

Tools on how to telework during the COVID-19 social distancing guidance

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient

Teleworking New Normal Exercise

Infographic
5/12/2021
Teleworking New Normal Exercise

Exercise while teleworking

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient

Teleworking New Normal Get a Good Nights Sleep

Infographic
5/12/2021
Teleworking New Normal Get a Good Nights Sleep

Get a good nights sleep

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 31 - 45 Page 3 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.