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Year in Review: Innovations aid warfighters, families

Blue light produced by smartphones and computer monitors interferes with the brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes people sleepy. The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine is working on lens tinting to block blue light and enhance the sleep of service members. MHS announced this innovation among many others in 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis) Blue light produced by smartphones and computer monitors interferes with the brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes people sleepy. The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine is working on lens tinting to block blue light and enhance the sleep of service members. MHS announced this innovation among many others in 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

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Here’s a review of some innovations in 2017 that provided continued momentum for the Military Health System’s mission of a medically ready force and ready medical force:

Single electronic health record. MHS GENESIS is the first major upgrade to military health documentation in more than a decade. It launched in February and was deployed to four initial fielding sites in the Pacific Northwest by December: Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Hospitals Oak Harbor and Bremerton, and Madigan Army Medical Center.

The agile and responsive system, designed to offer “seamless health care,” enables a single electronic health record for each of the 9.4 million DoD beneficiaries. MHS GENESIS will continue to roll out through 2022 to all military clinics and hospitals.

Beneficiaries are “the most important reason all of us are gathered here today,” Tom McCaffery, acting assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, said during a launch celebration in mid-November. “This electronic health record will help us support and advance” health care.

Good night’s sleep. With sleep deprivation a significant and well-documented issue for service members, the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine is working on a tinted lens that can block blue light.

Blue light interferes with the brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes people sleepy. Blue light comes from natural and artificial sources including computers, tablets, cellphones, and overhead lighting, said Navy Cmdr. Marc Herwitz, chief ancillary informatics officer for BUMED.

“Sleep is one of those hubs in the wheel of health,” said Diana Jeffery, a health psychologist and health care research analyst with the Defense Health Agency. “Without sleep, you impair mental health, cognitive functions, and decision-making skills. There are very few health functions that don’t require sleep.”

A preliminary study of the tinted lenses found that people who wore them two hours before bedtime fell asleep about 30 percent faster than those who didn’t.

More comfort and mobility. MHS and civilian researchers are collaborating on an advanced alternative to socket-based prosthetics. Osseointegration, a process that attaches the prosthesis directly to the skeleton, can improve comfort and mobility for qualified patients with amputations.

“Developing osseointegration as a capability within DoD makes good on our commitment to provide world-class solutions for combat casualties throughout the entire spectrum of care,” said Navy Cmdr. Jonathan A. Forsberg, an orthopedic oncologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and an investigator at the Naval Medical Research Center.

An osseointegration clinical trial at Walter Reed is the first of its kind to be performed in the United States.

Best possible outcome.  With the goal of producing the best possible outcome for wounded warriors, senior leaders across MHS coordinated with the Joint Staff on DoD Instruction 6040.47. The instruction provides operational commanders, clinical providers, and medical planners with the best known combat medical techniques and procedures to minimize trauma-related disability and eliminate preventable deaths after injury. It also officially recognizes the Joint Trauma System as the DoD Center of Excellence for Trauma, and supports combatant commands establishing regional and individual combatant command trauma systems.

“For the first time in U.S. military history, we have the necessary policy to create and maintain a durable, enduring trauma system in times of war and peace,” said Dr. David Smith, now the reform leader for health care management for DoD.

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