Communication is hard, so the Army Medical Command is softening things up to meet today's challenges and focus priorities.

Army Medicine's new "system for health" is an overhaul of the old Army "health care" system. It provides new system components for more effective communications.

This new Patient-Centered Medical Home "system for health" takes extensive advantage of unique communications opportunities between patients and staff.

PCMH is team-based. The system facilitates and encourages opportunities for communication between team members. The provider, nurses, nursing assistants, pharmacists, behavior health personnel, administrative personnel, and the patient, all work together to meet the patient's needs.

"The team, working together and communicating, helps patients get complete care," said Col. Elizabeth Hersch, deputy commander for clinical services at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.

"Communication is completely central to customer service," Hersch said.

"What I've found, when there have been concerns that have been raised to me, is that it's been about communication," said Hersch. "And so, through communication, Army Medicine has definitely improved its customer service."

PCMH provides improved communications through technology.

Patients and their PCMH team members can reach out to each other through the Internet using a secure messaging system.

"You can talk to your whole team online to ask questions, schedule appointments, get your refills," Hersch said.

"Today's new PCMH system for health is really focused on the patient, what the patient needs and wants, and what education we can give them," Hersch said. "Today, it's one-stop shopping, as opposed to having to make separate appointments for different problems in the past."

Patient-centered, team-based medicine focuses on customer service.

"It's a warm handoff," Hersch said.

Patients are customers. They lead the charge in their own healthcare. And the PCMH patient-centered, team-based system allows both patient and staff to initiate and complete the circle of communication in new and effective ways.

"PCMH allows our staff, many of whom are former or retired military, or are health care team members, who care deeply about our military and their Families, to reach out in a more friendly and familiar way," Hersch said.

"Staff members can now care for those they serve in more personal ways. Helping and guiding patients. This is how staff members originally imagined themselves performing the duties in their particular field of health care," Hersch said.

"Whether you're a patient or a staff member, PCMH encourages team interaction," Hersch said. "Good customer service is all about the communication."

(Editor's note: Brooks is a Marketing Specialist and Public Affairs Officer at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.)