Brig. Gen. Ronald T. Stephens
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash -- In 2013, at the direction of the Department of Defense, the Defense Health Agency, along with six enhanced multiservice markets, was established to ensure the delivery of high-value health care to all military beneficiaries. One of those markets is in Washington state, known as the Puget Sound Military Health System.

Our role is to integrate military health care delivery across the Puget Sound region.

This region is one of the major readiness, training and deployment platforms for our nation's military, to include military medical forces. The doctors, nurses and technicians who deploy - whether for combat, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or any other mission - to care for our service members, also maintain their world-class medical skills caring for patients right here in Washington.

Readiness is, and always will be, our number one priority as a military health system. And, as a health system, we maintain this focus on readiness while striving to improve quality, safety, access and satisfaction on the home front.

Recently, staff members from the Puget Sound Military Health System and its partner facilities - Madigan Army Medical Center, Naval Hospital Bremerton, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor and the Air Force's 62nd Medical Squadron - met for our annual Business Performance Planning Offsite.

For the third year in a row, the market came together to discuss new and innovative strategies for optimizing readiness and health care delivery in a joint environment for the more than 280,000 beneficiaries entrusted to our care. Among the topics discussed at the offsite were the new electronic health record, MHS Genesis, that will soon be deployed across the region.

This program will assist our health care team to better integrate and document your care. We also focused on patient care, pharmacy usage and dental readiness. Additionally, the teams had the opportunity to hear about the Defense Health Agency's mission from its Director of Healthcare Operations, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Clark.

The successes experienced in this market over the last three years are a direct result of the contributions, professionalism and leadership represented at the offsite and across the Puget Sound. This includes not only the staff of the military medical treatment facilities, but partnerships with the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System, UnitedHealthcare Military and Veterans, local civilian medical treatment facilities and many others.

One of those successes can be attributed to the effective use of consortiums. These are multidisciplinary work groups that focus on ways to enhance access and optimize primary and specialty care services within the market. Currently, consortiums exist in medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and behavioral health.

This year, we added two additional consortiums in dental and primary care services. Of note, the Puget Sound Military Health System is the only enhanced multiservice market to employ the consortium concept, and General Clark was very complimentary of our program and its results.

This means that an Army retiree may seek primary care at a Navy Medical Home Port, or a Sailor may have surgery at Madigan Army Medical Center. It means a Naval Hospital Oak Harbor patient may be seen via a virtual health encounter by another provider in the market. It also means that a patient can ride the patient shuttle between Madigan and Bremerton, as they may receive care at either facility. The patient experience is seamless wherever care is accessed.

The need for an integrated, responsive health system has never been more crucial.

Collaboration between the services improves access to care, removes unnecessary redundancies, reduces variation in care, and will ultimately improve patient experiences while maintaining fiscal efficiencies in a resource-constrained environment.

Together, Army, Navy and Air Force medical personnel are working to meet these goals and ensure timely access to the highest quality health care for our service members, retirees and families.

The Puget Sound Military Health System and the entire military medicine community is truly honored to have the responsibility of maximizing medical readiness as well as the privilege of caring for our nation's sons and daughters.

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