WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Combat readiness is the Army chief of staff's No.1 concern and medical readiness contributes a great deal to that, said Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West.

On June 1, the Army added a software tool that will contribute to boosting medical readiness, she said.

Specifically, the Army upgraded its e-Profile system by adding a Commander Portal, she pointed out. That gives commanders eyes on medical readiness at the unit level, as well as all the way down to the level of the individual Soldier.

West, surgeon general of the U.S. Army and commander, U.S. Army Medical Command, spoke Aug. 18 to the Defense Writers Group.

WHAT IT DOES

The portal gives commanders a real-time view of each Soldier's medical and dental readiness, West said, and that in turn provides the commander with unit readiness.

As well, the portal consolidates all of a Soldier's profiles in one location, she said, adding that those are all huge improvements over the previous profiling system. Now, even temporary profiles and profiles given by different providers are all in one place.

West explained that Soldiers can have multiple profiles; for example, one for an injured knee, another for a missed dental appointment and another for a no-shave condition.

In the past, some profiles made it online and some were merely hand-written and not entered, she said. "It was really not a closed system where you knew that the commander received the profile or was actually even reading it. Data showed just a third of commanders actually went in and looked at profiles of their Soldiers. So it was hard to know the readiness status."

Now, the Army is also aware of which commanders are reviewing their Soldiers' profiles, she said.

Another benefit of the portal, she said, is that since everything is typed in, the problem of poor physician handwriting has been eliminated.

One of the main benefits of the portal is that it now allows the commander to interact with the Soldier's health care provider one-on-one, West said.

That dialogue is particularly useful for a unit readying to deploy, she said.

Previously, profiles often had language that was imprecise when it came to understanding exactly which physical activities a Soldier could or could not engage in, she said.

Now, if the language isn't clear, commanders can ask the health care provider, via the portal, which activities the Soldier can engage in such as running, pullups, rucksack marches and so on, she said. "So the onus is now on the provider to make more specific requirements than in the past."

An additional benefit to that two-way communications, she said, is that the commander no longer has to physically hunt for the Soldier's health care provider, since it's all done via the portal.

The portal also facilitates communications between the commanders and their Soldiers, she said.

Commanders can go into the system to see which Soldiers need medical or dental attention and direct the Soldiers to get it. For example, she said if four Soldiers missed their dental exams, the commanders can see they are overdue, or even when they are nearing the overdue dates, and then they can be directed to get their exams.

Or, a profile might indicate that a Soldier needs to visit the doctor for definitive care, West said. The commander can track the progress of that and everything else.

CONCERNS ALLEVIATED

Commanders say they like the portal and new profiling system, West said.

But one of their concerns was that a unit's readiness rate would drop because the system has so much information on profiles, and that could lead to Soldiers being categorized in a non-deployable status, since all profiles are in one place and none can slip undetected.

So some discretion was given to the commanders, she said.

For example, if a commander sees that a Soldier has a twisted ankle, he or she could subjectively upgrade that person to a ready status, she said, explaining that a profile lasting longer than two weeks makes a person non-deployable and it might take somewhat longer for an ankle to heal.

Once that Soldier's status has changed to "deployable," the Soldier could be placed on light duty before the deployment, with his or her ankle stabilized until it heals, she said.

Of course there are certain things that cannot be subjectively upgraded, she said. For instance, if a Soldier's leg is broken and in a cast, the system actually greys out the upgrade button so the commander cannot physically press it.

The other concern is that it might take a while for everyone to get training on how to log in and use the system. That training is still underway, she said, adding that commanders, including top Army leadership, are really excited about the portal.

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