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

How COVID-19 Made the Military Medical Community Stronger

Image of a service member being treated. Multinational soldiers treat a simulated casualty during the final field training exercise of a six-month medical training course hosted by the International Special Training Centre in which twenty-four Special Operations Forces Soldiers from 10 different nations participated, March 1, 2017. (Photo: Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben, 4th Combat Camera Squadron)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

The international responses to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a host of changes and lessons learned across the Military Health System that will be valuable in preparing for the next crisis - whether that's another pandemic, a new conflict or natural disaster.

The far-reaching effects of the pandemic was a topic for top military health leaders from the U.S. and several other countries at an international COVID-19 panel discussion on Feb. 23. The virtual panel discussion was part of the annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Officials.

"We need to manage risk in a sensible way," said Defense Health Agency Director Lt. Gen (Dr.) Ronald Place.

"As clinical leaders, we need to better explain clinical risk to our senior leaders. It's a concept they understand. But we need to put it in their language - when it's prudent to accept risk. And when it's not."

Two overarching themes emerged from the presentations: militaries continually show their flexibility in responding quickly to crises, and nations often turn to their military in times of crisis.

Major topics from the panel included:

  • Preparedness
  • Logistics
  • Lab capacity
  • Clinical guidance
  • Technology infrastructure
  • Communication
  • Modeling and simulation
  • Data management

Preparedness

Place said he gives "great credit to our public health and preventive medicine teams. They had their pandemic playbooks, and they understood the actions that needed to happen to protect individuals and populations."

From the French perspective, militaries need to improve training "during a no-crisis time" to be better prepared for crisis management. That means "an increase in interagency cooperation," said Col. (Dr.) Sandrine Duron Martinaud, head of the epidemiology and health policies evaluation unit in the Office of the French Surgeon General for the French Armed Forces Health Service.

"This would improve cooperation and mutual support, and we also need to rely better on training between the European and NATO nations," she said.

Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Duncan Wilson from the United Kingdom said his country will publish a "national crisis management guideline...during the latter part of this year." Wilson is the medical director to the Surgeon General of the British Armed Forces as well as the head of research and clinical innovation.

Military personnel giving patients instructions
British Royal Air Force Flight Lt. Laura Foster gives patient instructions to U.S. Air Force aeromedical personnel on a C-17 Globemaster III during Patriot Warrior Aug. 17, 2019, at Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin ( Photo by: Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben, 4th Combat Camera Squadron).

Logistics

During the pandemic, the U.S. military's "medical logistics experts had a good line of sight on inventory of critical stockpiles," Place explained. He noted that the DOD "distributed a number of [personal protective equipment] items to our civilian partners early in the pandemic."

Canada learned "quite a bit about how vulnerable our supply chain was and the fact that we definitely need to build something stronger, and more resilient," said Maj. Gen. Marc Bilodeau, the Surgeon General of the Canadian Armed Forces. He also commanded all medical units in the western half of Canada during the pandemic.

Lab Capacity

The U.K. had to respond to its rapidly increasing COVID-19 caseload early on with better lab capabilities, mobile testing teams, and national tracing teams.

"We had to support a testing system that was a little bit slow to get off the ground and difficult to roll out across the country with quite a varied response from both urban and rural environments," Wilson said.

But quickly, the British military got boots on the ground and medical units deployed around the country. "We had a well-developed process already in place for the nation, and particularly the government departments, to reach out to the military for support," Wilson said.

In the U.S., laboratory capacity also was a concern at the beginning of the pandemic, Place said.

"We needed to work closely with civilian partners to balance explosive demand. We made significant investments in equipment and in testing supplies to be able to meet this expanded demand. And then we worked closely with industry to introduce new tests quickly after [Food and Drug Administration] approval."

Clinical Guidance

Clinical teams from across the U.S. armed services and Military Health System "came together and crafted clinical practice guidelines to provide help to our medical teams on the frontlines," Place noted.

There have been eight versions of that guidance because of the rapid knowledge increases about and medications for COVID-19, he said.

Technology

All the participants said their military and national public health systems were able to effectively handle the pandemic's infrastructure needs once the magnitude of infections was apparent. Their actions included:

  • creating overflow hospital sites
  • sending military teams to support overwhelmed civilian and military hospitals
  • supporting overstretched caregivers and tracking their mental health
  • transporting patients from over-crowded hospitals to ones with more capacity
  • shifting large portions of health care services into virtual environments

Military personnel stimulating casualty treatment during an operation
An Army medic prepares a simulated casualty for treatment during Operation Courageous Fury, a joint training exercise designed to assess medical operations in Germany at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, June 3, 2021 (Photo by: Marcy Sanchez, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center).

Communication

Communications underwent significant changes during the pandemic and became more open and transparent.

Canada's Bilodeau said "we totally changed our approach regarding using social media through the pandemic."

"Instead of staying away from it before, we are using it to communicate even with those internal to our organization."

To do so, Canada created a "fusion center helping to triage the information and make sure that it was digestible for us as medical advisers."

Similarly, in the U.K., there was a new openness about information. "Modeling was quite often exposed for all to see," Wilson said.

A lot of governmental-level decisions were based on modeling, Wilson said. Briefings included slides showing: "What if we put these measures in place? What if we don't put these measures in place? So some of that modeling became quite public property," he said.

Modeling and simulation

Modeling and simulation allowed the Canadian public health services to build new partnerships with defense scientists. Modeling and simulation also "challenges us to invest in data analytics, and computing power as well, because modeling requires a lot of computing power that we didn't have at the start of the pandemic," Bilodeau said.

He challenged the international community to "invest in technology that will be compatible with each other, so that we can share some of our database or give access to our databases."

"The more we develop that ability to share data, and ultimately to build modeling that won't be country-specific modeling, but region-specific modeling or even planet modeling, that will help us being better prepared for the next step."

Data Management

The U.S. military created a good system of tracking cases, care delivered, vaccinations, administered and many other metrics, Place said. "But we were drawing from multiple databases and systems, and there were times when data wasn't timely, and it wasn't accurate. We need to do better there," he said.

DHA Deputy Assistant Director for Medical Affairs Dr. Paul Cordts added: "I think we've come a long way in the last two years on integrating our data sources to be able to provide answers very rapidly to our most senior leaders."

You also may be interested in...

Niger, U.S. doctors treat 550 patients in Ouallam

Article Around MHS
4/15/2022
Military training

 Nigerien and U.S. doctors alongside U.S. joint service medical specialists established a temporary field clinic to provide medical treatment to citizens of Ouallam and the surrounding areas as a part of a medical civic action program (MEDCAP) in Ouallam, Niger, March 16, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

8 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to Change during the New Pandemic Phase

Article
4/15/2022
A parent comforts his child while she receives a pediatric dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2022. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte, 18th Wing Public Affairs)

Parents should prepare their kids for the new normal of the ongoing pandemic, recognizing that the status of the disease can change quickly as new variants of COVID-19 emerge.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Children's Health

DHA Director Outlines Vision for Health Care Readiness at HIMSS

Article
4/11/2022
Army Lt. General (Dr.) Ron Place during his speech at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference held in Orlando, Florida, March 2022. Place’s speech detailed his thoughts on solutions to military health care readiness. (Photo: Claire Reznicek, MHS Communications)

During his speech at HIMSS, Lt. Gen. Place discusses clear and present dangers to military medical care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Dr. Jay Montgomery Details Importance of the Immunization Healthcare Division

Article
4/8/2022
Dr. Jay Montgomery is a medical director for DHA’s Immunization Healthcare Division. In addition to being a clinician and educator, he also volunteers with Wounded Warriors to design, build and fly radio controlled helicopters. (Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Jay Montgomery is a medical director for the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division’s North Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub. In his role, Montgomery helps address vaccine and immunization questions and concerns.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Military Medical Officials Back FY 23 Budget Before Senate Appropriations Committee

Article
4/6/2022
Marines with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing take precautionary measures by cleaning and disinfecting their hands during field day on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 20, 2020, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to perform mission-essential tasks. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

Military Medical officials, including Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, Defense Health Agency director, back FY 23 Budget before the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 29, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

The New Public Health Director Talks about His Goals for Force Readiness

Article
4/5/2022
Rear Admiral Brandon Taylor of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in dress whites at the 2019 National Independence Day Parade where he represented the U.S. Surgeon General as a presiding official with the other services. Taylor was named in February as the new director of the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health directorate. (Photo: Tanisha Blaise, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division senior public relations and media specialist)

Rear Adm. Brandon Taylor was recently appointed to be the new director for the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health directorate. In an interview, he discussed how he is approaching his new role, his goals for Public Health within DHA, and the importance of Public Health to a medically ready force and a ready medical force.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Military Health System Transformation

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 04 - April 2022

Report
4/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Exertional heat illness at Fort Benning, GA: Unique insights from the Army Heat Center; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2017–2021; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2006–2021

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

COVID-19 Responses Underscore Importance of Patient Safety

Article
3/14/2022
Every day, patient safety is one of the top priorities for the Defense Health Agency. Patient safety means providing ready, reliable care to service members, veterans, and dependents no matter the circumstances. (Photo: Defense Health Agency)

Patient safety is a topmost concern of MHS, and Patient Safety Awareness Week 2022 focuses on Ready, Reliable Care.

Recommended Content:

Patient Safety | Patient Safety Awareness Week | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Patient Safety Awareness Week

Top Military Health Leaders Discuss Future Readiness

Article
3/8/2022
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, prepares to transport U.S. Army medical personnel to Guam in support of the global COVID-19 response on April 13, 2020.

Top military health leaders highlight the importance of preparing for the future to ensure both a medically ready force and a ready medical force.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 03 - March 2022

Report
3/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Obesity prevalence among active component service members prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, January 2018–July 2021; Brief report: Refractive surgery trends at tri-service refractive surgery centers and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, fiscal years 2000–2020; Brief report: Using syndromic surveillance to monitor MIS-C associated with COVID-19 in Military Health System beneficiaries; Surveillance snapshot: Medical separation from service among incident cases of osteoarthritis and spondylosis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016–2020

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

Answering Your Questions About COVID-19 Testing

Article
2/25/2022
Military personnel performing a COVID-19 Test

COVID-19 continues to spread, now as the Omicron variant. Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect you and your family from getting seriously ill, getting hospitalized, or dying. You should also make sure you’re up to date with your vaccines. Testing is another important step you can take to protect yourself and others.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | At-Home COVID-19 Tests

Defense Department Announces Distribution of COVID-19 Tests for Military Beneficiaries

Article
2/25/2022
A Soldier assigned to the Connecticut National Guard helps load a shipment of at-home COVID-19 testing kits into a truck at a regional distribution point in North Haven, Connecticut, Jan. 3, 2022. These kits were picked up by representatives from local towns and municipalities to be handed out to their communities.

The Department of Defense will offer at-home COVID-19 tests for military beneficiaries at military hospitals or clinics, on a supply available basis, in the coming weeks.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | At-Home COVID-19 Tests | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

The Chief of the Army Dental Corps Talks Dental Health & Readiness

Article
2/22/2022
The Army’s top dentist talks about what service members should keep in mind about their dental health.

Here’s what the Army’s top dentist thinks service members should keep in mind about their dental health.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

Latasha Smith: Warrior against COVID-19

Article Around MHS
2/18/2022
Military personnel looking at a patient's cardiac rhythm

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Latasha Smith, an Airman assigned to the 86th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, was celebrated as Airlifter of the Week, Jan. 27, 2022, after leading the assault against COVID-19 for over a year.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Military Medical Units Support Civilian Hospitals Strained By COVID-19 Surge

Article
2/14/2022
Air Force Staff Sgt. Bradley Gorman, a medical technician assigned to a military medical team deployed to Yuma, Arizona performs a nasal swab at the Yuma Regional Medical Center’s COVID testing drive-thru in Yuma, Jan. 17, 2022.

Thousands of service members have been supporting civilian hospitals with testing, vaccinations and treatment of seriously ill patients.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 70
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 20, 2022

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.