FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Brig. Gen. John Cho, commanding general of Western Regional Medical Command, spent Thursday and Friday visiting several General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital clinics, facilities and patients here.

Cho spoke about meeting the needs of patients, increasing enrollment and efficiency, and the future of the hospital and Army Medicine, during several facility tours and Town Hall meetings scheduled with staff and patients.

"It's important that I tell you where we are--and why," Cho said.

As the Army downsizes from an active-duty troop strength of 570,000 to 450,000, Cho's insight provided hospital staff members with a high-level perspective on the hospital's longevity.

"Within the ebb and flow of things, we're (currently) in the ebb," Cho said. "That means that we have to take care of those who have retired in our system who want to get care. Because when the flow comes, and we have to grow for whatever reason--for whatever badness that's out there--and we have to then increase troop strength, this hospital will be on all pistons.

"The future is in our hands," Cho said. "And that's where I want to be."

Regardless of the issue, success "involves the team responding to the need," Cho said.

Cho discussed enrolling to capacity, and taking care of those who have enrolled. This includes getting patients to make the wellness check appointments they need, maximizing secure messaging, and exercising efficient access to care.

Using new communication protocols and tools provided by the Army's new patient-centered, team-based System for Health will ensure Army Medicine is moving efficiency numbers in the right direction.

A few of these tools include secure messaging, TRICARE Online, and a new Nurse Advice Line coming soon.

Smoothly transitioning from face-to-face to more online-based services is forecasted to save hundreds of millions of dollars, according to TRICARE, and a coordinated, smooth transition could free up primary care team members to care for enrollees who require hands-on medical attention.

The closing of stateside TRICARE Service Centers and move from walk-in to electronic services on April 1, 2014, was of particular interest to Cho, who reserved time during his busy visit to focus on ensuring the hospital and United Healthcare representatives were working through the change together.

Several proactive strategies are in place to meet patients' needs. The TSC is also hiring three employees, plus another to work the call center here, to ensure the hospital has a safety net to take care of our community.

The highlight of Cho's visit was his attendance at the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the hospital's new cutting-edge electronic Intensive Care Unit capability here, hosted by hospital commander, Col. Marie Dominguez.

The eICU, a high-tech safety and quality-of-care advancement, "is the result of dedicated, caring hospital staff who worked hard to make General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital No. 1 in outpatient efficiency in WRMC," said John Ingersoll, Clinical Operations Supervisor here.

"As other hospitals are downsizing and even closing, we're continuing to provide new services and technology at an increasing rate," Ingersoll said. "We are No. 1 in outpatient efficiency in all of MEDCOM--and there's a real, solid reason for that. We care.

"It may sound trite, but it's true. We care about those we serve," he said. "We're on the same team and Army Medicine's new System for Health is providing the patient-centered, team-based framework for both staff and patient to communicate and work together better."

The eICU is expected to contribute increase to the hospital's inpatient care efficiency, currently rated No. 3 in MEDCOM, said Ingersoll.

"The eICU more than doubles our staff's ability to provide critical care for our inpatients," Ingersoll said. "And this level of quality care has also increased our efficiency. Now we've got a state-of-the-art, high-tech tool to take caring to a whole new level with telemedicine."

The eICU brings additional board-certified intensivists and critical care nursing staff members on board, electronically, significantly contributing to value-added care for enrollees here in rural Missouri, Ingersoll said.

Second and third opinion care and continuous electronic monitoring, provided by a partnership with an eICU control center at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, Ark., allows for fewer patient transfers to distant, larger hospitals.

Army Medicine is also actively exploring the possibilities of connecting Army Medical Treatment Facilities together using telemedicine technology, Cho said, which further expands our ability to care for patients.

The MTF enrollment window is now open for TRICARE Prime (active duty) and TRICARE Plus (65+) at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital and the Ozark Family-Centered Medical Home satellite clinic, located off post in the City of Saint Robert's municipal building.

Those eligible to enroll are encouraged to call the hospital's enrollment hotline at (573) 596-0727.

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