Army Medicine focuses on medical readiness
January 10, 2012
The Army's individual medical readiness stands at just 85 percent while the Guard and Reserve deployability level is even lower at 70 percent, according to senior Army officials. Of those Soldiers unable to deploy, a growing number are unable to do so for medical reasons.
Though the Army is overmanning brigade combat teams to ensure units are fully resourced, ready and capable at deployment, a smaller population of Soldiers available for deployment is a serious threat to overall Army readiness. To mitigate that threat, and to improve the medical readiness of the Army, the U.S. Army Medical Command is executing a coordinated, synchronized, and integrated comprehensive Soldier Medical Readiness Campaign Plan.
The campaign plan spans a five-year period, from April 2011 through September 2016, and is spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Richard A. Stone, the U.S. Army's Deputy Surgeon General.
According to Lt. Col. Samuel L. Ellis, division chief, G-37, Readiness, Training and Exercise Division, the goal of the campaign is to ensure that all deploying Soldiers are medically and psychologically fit. It also ensures that all returning Soldiers receive quality assessments to identify any medical or psychological conditions and provide evaluation and treatment services. Throughout the campaign, the command is focusing on three primary lines of effort: LOE 1, Identification of Medically Not Ready (MNR) Soldiers, LOE 2, MNR Management Programs, and LOE 3, Evidence-Based Health Promotion, Injury Prevention and Human Performance Optimization Programs.
Ellis said Army Medicine is working with commanders across the Army to standardize care and promote a healthy population and ready force.
"Soldiers are the centerpiece of Army combat formations. The rigors of modern combat in austere environments demand that Soldiers be physically and emotionally prepared for the associated stress. Medical and dental readiness is an important component of the overall preparation of Soldiers and units for deployment. Healthy and protected Warriors optimize mission readiness, health and fitness, and resiliency throughout the Army Force Generation process: before, during, and after deployment," he added.
Ellis said one of the keys to the plan is standardizing and streamlining approaches to tracking on an automated basis, Soldier medical readiness and care.
"With one automated system, all the major players are now working off the same page and allow commanders to effectively manage their assigned forces" he said.
An early success of the campaign has been identifying Soldiers who are MNR through the increased use of the Medical Protection System, or MEDPROS, and the electronic profile or eProfile Application by the Army. MEDCOM began tracking Soldier health and immunization through the Medical Protection System, or MEDPROS, in 2002.
Ellis said MEDPROS contains available medical and dental information on every Soldier and is accessible to commanders down to company level. Because commanders must monitor medical readiness and ensure timely compliance to correct deficiencies, there are a variety of MEDPROS reports available to assist in accurate decision making.
"To effectively manage the MNR Soldier population, it is critical to accurately identify and stratify them. Early identification allows aggressive management for either return to full duty or entry into the medical board process," Ellis said.
Progress has also been made in the medically not ready management programs which aim to enhance Soldier care. Steps forward include the implementation of the Medical Management Center Program, a program implemented by MEDCOM to assist unit and rear detachment commanders with managing and assisting MNR Soldiers through the healing process; the establishment of the Reserve Component Soldier Medical Support Center; the initiation of a Medical Evaluation Board Surge plan; and the standardization of medical support to Soldier Readiness Processing sites.
Additionally, success has been achieved in evidence-based health promotion, injury prevention and human performance optimization programs. Basic Combat Training injury surveillance, implementation of military treatment facility and unit based medical management and rehabilitation programs, support to prioritized research efforts, and the coordination and support to health promotion and wellness services have all improved the medical readiness of the Army.
One program, the Initial Entry Training Soldier Athlete Initiative, aims to drive down injury and serious injury rates of Soldiers at basic training while improving the final Army Physical Fitness Test pass rate and improving the overall health and physical readiness of the recruit. The initiative is evaluating the use of a multi-disciplinary musculoskeletal action team, or MAT, focused on injury prevention and human performance optimization.
"Recruits in Initial Entry Training have the highest incidence of musculoskeletal injuries of any subgroup in the Army. This not only affects Soldier preparation, but also results in medical attrition that reduces military manpower," said Lt. Col. Timothy Pendergrass, allied health staff officer, Office of the Surgeon General.
Pendergrass said the MATs provide a unique team approach to training and treating Soldiers. Each MAT consists of a lead military physical therapist, a military physical therapy technician, and one or more athletic trainers and certified strength and conditioning coaches. The MATs are responsible for medical coverage at demanding physical events; injury evaluation and treatment; injury surveillance and prevention; reconditioning and human performance optimization programs.
For more information about the Soldier Medical Readiness Campaign Plan, visit armymedicine.mil/news/docs/SMR_CP_Version_1.2.pdf.