By Mr. Jerry Harben (Army Medicine)May 18, 2010
SAN ANTONIO -- Army medical personnel are making progress across a broad range of issues affecting health care for Soldiers and their families, according to the Army's top medical officer.
Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, The Surgeon General of the Army and commander of U.S. Army Medical Command, spoke May 17 to 1,900 military medical professionals attending the Army Medical Symposium sponsored by U.S. Army Medical Command and the Association of the U.S. Army in San Antonio, Texas.
Schoomaker's two themes were how Army Medicine brings value and inspires trust, not only for patients and their families, but also Army leaders, government leaders and taxpayers.
"The warrior preparing for battle trusts that his or her medic will be there when the cry "medic" goes up, the mother entering the delivery room trusts that her nurse midwife or (obstetrician) or that young 68WM6 (licensed practical nurse) has her interest and that of her baby in mind, the wounded, ill or injured warrior trusts that we as experts in healing, rehabilitation and reintegration are focused on getting them literally and figuratively back on their feet, back into the fight or on to productive lives ... the taxpayers, Department of Defense and national leaders expect that we are doing all we can do with an eye for high value," he said.
Schoomaker said the Army is shifting from a health care system that measures success by patients treated and procedures performed to a system of health that prevents patients from needing treatment, and treats them as effectively as possible when necessary.
"We are not doing just more widgets of care but better quality of care," he said.
The general promoted using evidence-based medicine to reduce unwarranted variation in care.
"Why would you drive your car on the wrong side of the road," he asked, "when all evidence suggests a better result for your Sunday drive if you just follow the rules'"
He cited great progress in the past three years in care for wounded, ill or injured Soldiers who must rehabilitate and transition either back to duty or to civilian life. Milestones include implementing an action plan for wounded warrior care, formation of a national Warrior Transition Command to coordinate such programs and local warrior transition units to provide support and supervision. More than 60,000 Soldiers have successfully transitioned through this system.
"They are hoping to change the culture of care for these warriors to one focused on ability instead of one focused on disability," Schoomaker said.
Other initiatives Schoomaker cited involve an automated system to collect information about combat casualties that has led to improved body armor and better protected vehicles, construction of more new hospitals in two to three years than in the past 20 years, improved access to primary-care clinics, improved skills for front-line medics, treatment of mild traumatic brain injuries close to the front lines and new measures to relieve pain without addictive medication.
"I submit that we inspire trust through our track record of having been there when needed," he said.