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Crosland Discusses Dawn of Digital Health at HIMSS 2023

Image of Crosland Discusses Dawn of Digital Health at HIMSS 2023. Defense Health Agency Director U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland gave a talk entitled “Virtual First: DOD and a Global Imperative for Better Access” on April 19 at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference held in Chicago, Illinois. She discussed her vision for the future of the Military Health System and for military health. (Credit: Robert Hammer/Military Health System)

The Defense Health Agency is taking steps to transform military medicine into a more versatile digital, patient-centered system, according to its director, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland.

“I believe the future is in technology. I truly believe that the bigger future lies in transcending it into a better, more compassionate, more effective, and more equitable health care system,” said Crosland at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Global Health Conference & Exhibition on April 19.

“This will allow for a more seamless and accessible health care experience that puts the patient at the center of their care. Anytime. Anywhere—Always.”

Crosland’s presentation, titled “Virtual First: DOD and a Global Imperative for Better Access,” outlined her vision for the future of DHA and for military health care. The conference was held in Chicago April 17-21.

“My priorities as a combat support agency are focused on the health of the force, and the redesign of our health care system is about patient health,” said Crosland. “And as an agency, it's about the health of our people.”

“That's why I believe we need to take time now as we rethink, reimagine, and reinvent our modern-day health care system—that we do it with a human focus, even as we pivot to a virtual-first world,” said Crosland.

Crosland said she believes not in a patient-centric system, but a “person-centric” future for health care, and a virtual system is the path forward.

The Evolution of Health Care

In her remarks, Crosland shared her vision to shift the military health care system to the virtual future.

The current “the legacy health system”—brick -and-mortar locations, in-person visits, health care system-centric, reactionary—has started efforts to become digitized.

In the coming years, a fundamental shift will happen, she said. “It's where I'm taking military medicine in the next four years. It's health care that is always connected, digitally enabled, and highly integrated. It's where the patient moves to the center of a tech enabled ecosystem,” Crosland explained.

The long-term vision is a “seamless digital experience where the individual beneficiary is at the center,” she added. “This is aspirational, but make no mistake, it is coming. It's a convergence of the ecosystems, complete well-being, spiritual, social, financial, and the health of individuals.”

Crosland also shared how she believes this virtual system is the future because of how todays and future generations of people are living in the digital age.

“Think now about how a generation of digital natives—who have never visited a store—bought music, rented a video, picked up photos. They share their cars and apply for mortgages and even attend college classes anywhere in the world using their phones and tablets,” said Crosland.

Recruiting Staff for this Virtual World

Crosland also discussed the challenges in staffing for these future changes, with the need for computer and data scientists and technology professionals to create and operate this virtual world.

“The first step is leveraging the team that I have. And once you leverage that talent, we as an organization absolutely must reorganize ourselves to value that,” said Crosland. She noted that some of this future talent already exists; they are just in different positions than maybe what they should be in.

“There's a lot of work to be done to build that career path with respect to the civilian sector and hiring and competing. That's a challenge,” she said. “We've got to find capacity to build the workforce of the future.”

She also acknowledged the need for behavior change to usher in the future of health care.

“None of this gets done if we don't change the behaviors,” Crosland said. “Our thought process can’t just be that we’re adding technology to where we are today. What I'm talking about is a fundamental shift in how we look at how we deliver care and [change] behaviors, both from our patients as well as those who provide the care.”

She reinforced why she believes this virtual system is the future, saying “we will not waste our obligation to support soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, guardians, and their families. They are our nation's sons and daughters. They are our sons and daughters. They deserve the best, not yesterday's best, or today's best, but they deserve tomorrow's best today.”

Crosland concluded with her enthusiasm for the modernization of the MHS.

“I'm excited to be part of this evolution. One that delivers on the promise of anytime, anywhere—always.”

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