Military health in period of transformation
January 31, 2012
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Jan. 31, 2012) -- Healthcare to health was the topic of discussion at the opening plenary session of the 2012 Military Health System Conference today at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center at National Harbor, Md.
An audience of some 3,000 military medical professionals from across the Department of Defense joined three top defense officers in the conversation about transitioning the military medical community towards a focus on health and readiness in addition to treatment of illness and injury.
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, opened the plenary with his presentation of "Healthcare to Health; A Model for the Nation." He focused on the transformation the armed services face and the challenges a smaller, leaner force will pose for the military medical community.
"Our primary focus remains those serving in combat operations overseas," Woodson said.
However, he added, the Military Health System, or MHS, must begin to plan for the future. He said the last 10 years of combat care have created a precedent of excellence in trauma and critical care. Now, in today's changing defense needs, the military medical community must begin to shift towards a prevalent attitude of health and wellness in addition to traditional healthcare.
Woodson outlined four key objectives moving forward; continuation of the Patient Centered Medical Home, addressing the issues of tobacco use and obesity in the military community, patient safety and innovation. He said innovation is the key to the future of the MHS.
A key theme throughout the morning plenary session was the empowerment of patients in their own health.
Acting Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Jo Ann Rooney emphasized the need to widen the circle of those who are responsible for health within the defense community. She said health is a community responsibility and the move from healthcare to health within the medical community is a message of hope for the future of the armed services. Rooney also spoke of the importance of integration of technology and maintaining a personal touch in providing for the complex needs of the MHS patient base.
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Army surgeon general and commander of U.S. Army Medical Command, capped off the session with a challenge.
"With all that we've accomplished, are we good enough? No," Horoho said. "Our focus, the nation's focus, is primarily on healthcare. We have to focus on health."
Horoho said health happens in the "white space" between doctors' visits and that this is where the majority of decisions that affect an individual's health are made. She spoke of the need to reach patients on an individual level and to empower them in maintaining and enhancing their own health and well being.
"There are difficult challenges ahead, but our mission remains clear," Horoho said. "In order for us to get to health, we must empower our patients. The need is urgent, the time is now."
All three speakers at the morning's first session closed with a call to action to join in on the MHS transformation in a spirit of innovation and collaboration. They said a commitment to continuous improvement, personal involvement in patient care and safety partnerships with sister services and other federal and civilian organizations as well as beneficiaries is the way forward.