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Reform, COVID-19 Have Been Catalysts for Change in Military Medicine

Image of Dr. Terry Adirim speaking to an audience at a conference. Dr. Terry Adirim, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, speaks to the audience during a Views from the Top educational session at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society 2021 annual conference at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, August 10 (Jacob Moore, MHS Communications).

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"We cannot forget that healthcare is about taking care of people, so no amount of change or innovation is ever sufficient if modernization does not lead to helping patients, delivering better outcomes, saving lives or helping healthcare providers deliver care," said Dr. Terry Adirim, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, during a Views from the Top educational session at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society 2021 annual conference.

She spoke about the unique differences, as well as the similarities, between civilian and military medicine.

"I believe there are unique lessons from our experience within the Military Health System, regardless of what sector of healthcare you sit in," said Adirim. "From data systems driving greater efficiencies and better outcomes within our agencies, to efforts helping us realize the advancements in science and medicine."

These innovations, she said, are aligning federal healthcare providers with the best in private sector care, delivering the best results for service members and their families.

Adirim said the two largest factors currently leading to innovations, changes and advancements within the MHS are:

"We can't discuss innovation, modernization and responding to change without also talking about the pandemic. COVID-19 continues to prove to be the ultimate disruptor," she said. "It has tested the readiness and resilience of the entire enterprise and put our providers at risk and, ultimately, threatens our service members' ability to do their jobs."

Adirim explained how new approaches to medical care and public health such as virtual health and testing methodology have kept military health beneficiaries safe since the onset of the pandemic.

These, "seemingly small but significant wins," she said, have created real change.

She cited Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi's best practice of using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended 15-minute waiting period following COVID-19 vaccination to ask patients about making appointments for routine care that may have been missed due to increased focus on the virus.

Adirim also used the opportunity to praise the military medical community.

"It is a privilege to lead and serve military medical providers who are fully committed to ensuring the health and readiness of our troops, which is so vital to our national security," she said. "They have been doing so through an especially challenging time of national and global disruption due to the COVID pandemic."

Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place also spoke at HIMSS21 as part of the Views from the Top series the following day.

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