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

Maintaining Mission Readiness During a Pandemic

Gen. Place presents at HIMSS in Las Vegas. Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place 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 11.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | Deployment Health

In the spring of last year, the massive coronavirus outbreak aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, was a jarring wake-up call for many senior military leaders about the impact that the pandemic could have on military readiness.

The carrier reported hundreds of COVID-19 infections and was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Guam for almost two months. That was among the early “alarm bells” that forced the Pentagon to ask hard questions that had wide-ranging implications.

“This is a United States carrier group operating to keep sea lanes open across the Pacific, now pulled out of that responsibility due to a severe COVID outbreak on board that ship,” said Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, during a recent discussion of the national security implications of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“How can we safely keep ships at sea? How do we deploy submarines? How do we launch aircraft? How do we manage troop movements around the world with this? The answer is information. Specifically, health information,” Place said. “We needed it right, we needed it fast and we needed it to make decisions on how to manage the pandemic and still preserve our ability to project a fighting force.”

Place provided insights into the decision-making process of senior Department of Defense leaders regarding health care early in the pandemic when he spoke to hundreds of health care professionals who gathered recently at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society 2021 annual conference in Las Vegas.

Place cited COVID as the number one cause for reduced readiness over the past year. He also said that the pandemic impacts almost all areas of mission readiness.

“It takes aircraft carriers away from the mission. It has the potential to ground airplanes, keep submarines in port. It takes healthcare workers out of their usual work and makes them do other things, perhaps in other areas of the country. It slows down our ability to process and train new recruits…in other words, it essentially effects everything,” he said.

Among the first steps to address the expanding pandemic last year were to develop a task force and a testing strategy, Place said.

Another important element that Place said helped the DOD’s efforts in combatting COVID early in the pandemic was standardization, especially in the language and terminology used to discuss the problem among military officials around the world.

“Initially, local leaders doing what they thought they had to do, fast, were using their own words to describe some of these tests,” Place said. “That’s fine for local decision makers, but it’s not so great when you’re trying to look at trends. We needed to standardize.”

Place said line leaders and health informaticists in the fleet and field quickly reached an agreement on what nomenclature was going to be used and standardized it, “essentially overnight.”

“We need to be smarter, and faster, and more disciplined in getting the right solutions to clinical providers,” said Place. “COVID’s not going away. How much it continues to consume our waking hours is at least partially up to us. It’s up to us to become better listeners.”

Place said at least part of becoming better listeners is a focus on patient-reported outcomes.

“Their outcomes are expressed differently than how clinicians like me typically express them, but they’re just as important – likely they’re even more important,” he said.

Place had three main points that he saw military health care leaders embody in the current crisis and that he hoped those in attendance at the conference would take away:

  • Explain and manage risks
  • Trust is the coin of the realm – know your data, and be confident in its accuracy
  • Embrace transparency

Place also reminded the audience that the DOD’s mission around the world doesn’t stop, even for a global pandemic.

“We in the military don’t really have the luxury to work from home,” he said. “Home is where the mission takes us – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Africa or Asia and exercises with allies, humanitarian responses – it never stops.”

Dr. Terry Adirim, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, also spoke at HIMSS21 as part of the Views from the Top series earlier in the week.

You also may be interested in...

Policy on Access to Medical After Rabies Exposure in Theater

Policy

Post-Deployment Rabies Risk Evaluation Memo

Policy

Human Rabies Prevention During and After Deployment Memo

Policy

Access to Medical Services Who were Exposed to Rabies in Combat Theater

Policy

DoD Instruction 6490.03: Deployment Health

Policy

This instruction implements policies and prescribes procedures for deployment health activities for Joint and Service-specific deployments to monitor, assess, and prevent Disease and Non-Battle Injury (DNBI)Disease and Injury (DI) to control or reduce Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH) risks; to document and link OEH exposures with deployed personnel, including exposures to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) warfare agents; and to record the daily locations of deployed personnel.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.03
  • Date: 9/30/2011
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Deployment Health

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps COSC Policy Update

Policy

Mental Health Assessments for Members of the Armed Forces Deployed in Connection with a Contingency Operation

Policy

CJCSI 3137.01D The Functional Capabilities Board (FCB)

Policy

Policy for Decreasing Use of Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid) in Combat Zones

Policy
  • Identification #: 09-006
  • Date: 3/12/2009
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Deployment Health

POST-DEPLOYMENT HEALTH ASSESSMENT (PDHA)

Policy

POST-DEPLOYMENT HEALTH RE-ASSESSMENT (PDHRA)

Policy

ASD (HA) Memo "TBI Questions for the Post Deployment Health Assessment"

Policy

Policy Guidance for Deployment-Limiting Psychiatric Conditions and Medications

Policy

This policy provides guidance on deployment and continued service in a deployed environment for military personnel who experience psychiatric disorders and/or who are prescribed psychotropic medication.

Joint Publication 4-02, Health Service Support

Policy

Policy for Pre- and Post-deployment Serum Collection

Policy

The reference, responding to the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 733), established interim standards for the collection of pre-and postdeployment blood specimens. It also authorized the Joint Medical Readiness Oversight Committee (JMROC) to recommend changes to the interim standards.

  • Identification #: 06-008
  • Date: 3/14/2006
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Deployment Health
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 3

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.