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Defense Health Agency celebrates seven years of service

Lt. Gen. Ronald Place holding a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director, Defense Health Agency participates in a Public Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, October 1, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

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Since its establishment in October 2013, the Defense Health Agency has been dedicated to delivering quality health care to service members, veterans, and their families. The Defense Health Agency's annual birthday celebration, hosted Oct. 1 at DHA headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, brought together leadership and employees to commemorate seven years of service.

“It’s a moment to reflect on where we’ve come from, recommit to our focus on the mission, and reenergize ourselves to the vital tasks that lie ahead – knowing that our work matters to a lot of great Americans who are serving or have served their country,” said DHA Director, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place.

In honor of DHA’s seventh birthday, Place participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and then hosted a birthday event at DHA Headquarters in Falls Church that featured a cake-cutting led by Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg.

Here are seven ways DHA has ensured the Department of Defense has a ready medical force, and a medically ready force to best respond when called upon:

1. DHA begins the largest transformation in military health to improve standardization of care. DHA assumed administration and management of all military hospitals and clinics in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico Oct. 25, 2019, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. This change redefined the roles of DHA and the military departments. Other ongoing transformation efforts are focused on organizational, infrastructure, and manpower changes within the Military Health System. The goal of transformation is to improve the readiness of operational and medical forces to meet their missions around the world while providing safe, high-quality care to patients. For more information on the transformation of military health care, visit Health.mil.

Military man wearing mask cutting cloth to make facemasks.
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Heaney, 911th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, cuts material to make a cloth face covering at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, April 6, 2020. Aircrew flight equipment technicians are making the cloth face coverings as the U.S. Air Force is committed to taking every precaution to ensure the health and well-being of all its personnel and family members. (Photo by Joshua J. Seybert.)

2.  DHA continues to serve as a flexible and rapid-response organization during the COVID-19 national emergency. In the midst of transformation, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and DHA joined countless medical entities in the quest to combat the novel coronavirus. DHA’s COVID-19 response efforts led to a shift in how the MHS practiced medicine while maintaining operational safety. DHA quickly and efficiently adapted to the new normal of the pandemic and launched creative practices at the military medical treatment facilities, like drive-thru pharmacies for prescriptions to ensure that beneficiaries still received care. The new COVID-registry tracks patient information and treatment outcomes to inform best practices. It met the Secretary of Defense’s goal of obtaining 10,000 units of convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients through the Armed Services Blood Program, and DHA continues to leverage the expertise of its health care professionals to research a treatment for the disease. For more information on DHA’s COVID-19 response, visit Health.mil.

3.  DHA applies innovative new technologies to improve care for patients. The use of technology has increased in military health care, with expanding telehealth and virtual care capabilities and the digitization of numerous processes and procedures. The deployment of MHS GENESIS, the new federal electronic health record, allows patients and providers access to a single electronic health record regardless of location. The MHS Nurse Advice Line under TRICARE provides a phone hotline for beneficiaries who have questions about care. Military hospitals and clinics under DHA also created new technologies, from the first bioengineered blood vessel transplant in military history to recent improvements to virtual health care. As technology continues to advance, DHA and its medical facilities remain at the forefront of medical innovations. For more information on health care innovations, visit Health.mil.

Soldier getting  nasal swab test for COVID-19
U.S. Soldiers with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade receive tests for COVID-19 at their mobilization station at Fort Hood, Texas. 28th ECAB Soldiers are taking COVID-19 tests as one of the measures to ensure the task force is healthy to train for their upcoming deployment to the Middle East and to limit the spread of the virus. (Photo by Capt. Travis Mueller.)

4. DHA forms international partnerships and improves health surveillance through global health engagement. Service members could be deployed anywhere in the world at any time and must be prepared for any health threats. DHA’s global health surveillance capabilities monitor for potential health threats overseas, from insects to deadly viruses like the COVID-19 pandemic. Global health engagement also strengthens partnerships with foreign allies. Through foreign liaison officers, or LNOs, DHA supports international collaboration with allies in order to implement the best health care practices. For more information on global health engagement, visit Health.mil.

5. DHA promotes a medically ready military force through Total Force Fitness. Readiness is measured in more than just physical fitness and medical status. Through the Total Force Fitness program, DHA explores other areas in military life – like social, spiritual, environmental, and mental health – to help service members, their families, and even providers reevaluate health and well-being. TFF highlights topics from foods that help fight infection to the importance of suicide prevention for all beneficiaries and DoD employees. For more information on Total Force Fitness, visit Health.mil.

6. DHA recruits and maintains exemplary health care professionals to create a ready medical force. DHA supports a medically ready force by relying on health care professionals operating at all levels of the agency. From the provider directly interacting with the patient to the policymaker at headquarters, DHA employees strive to meet the agency’s mission. DHA keeps its staff up-to-date on the latest in health care, offering a breadth of residencies, webinars, and training resources for its providers. Collaboration with the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences trains, educates and empowers the health care professionals of tomorrow with the medical and leadership skills to succeed in the future. DHA also promotes diversity through special emphasis programs like the Federal Women’s Program to ensure that all employees have the opportunity to pursue the professional career that they desire and reach their full potential.

Woman wearing flowered mask at a computer screen
Screening, testing, and processing orders for COVID-19 are a major emphasis for the Department of Defense, and NHB/NMRTC Bremerton's Laboratory Department staff members - such as Hospitalman Maggie Strah - are providing crucial support and have a central role in ensuring service members remain healthy and ready. (Photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton PAO.)

7. DHA maintains and adjusts the TRICARE health benefit for its 9.6 million beneficiaries across the world. One of the DHA’s main priorities is serving the beneficiary through the TRICARE health benefit, adjusting as necessary to assure quality care. Temporary expansions to TRICARE telehealth coverage have helped beneficiaries keep up with appointments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when physically going to a hospital wasn’t possible. DHA also continues to coordinate with the Department of Justice as it prosecutes third parties who have committed pharmaceutical fraud through TRICARE. DHA remains committed to maintaining and improving TRICARE as health care evolves.

“Each of the unique characteristics of a particular patient, their life experiences, their other medical problems, the other things that are happening in their life­ are all important to providing care,” Place said. “In the coming months and years ahead, we are going continue to focus on our core priorities of great outcomes, improved readiness, satisfied patients and a fulfilled workforce.”

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