Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Pandemic underscores MHS’ need for reform, McCaffery tells AMSUS

Army soldier gets nose swab Army Sgt. Toni-Moi Dewar, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Kenner Army Health Clinic’s Active Duty Clinic performs a COVID-19 swab of a soldier at Fort Lee in Virginia. (U.S. Army photo)

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Vaccine Trials | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

The Department of Defense is moving forward with its plans to integrate and optimize all Military Health System components after pausing to focus on national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffery announced Dec. 8 in remarks to the annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals.

“An important lesson learned as a result of the pandemic is that marshalling the Department’s vast medical assets to quickly respond to a requirement on the scale of a pandemic is challenging when those assets are separately managed by four distinct entities,” McCaffery told the military and federal medical professionals who attended the virtual meeting.

During his 2019 AMSUS speech he announced that he had asked MHS senior leadership to develop and codify a formal strategic framework to guide the integration and optimization of all MHS components. MHS senior leadership is composed of the Army, Navy, and Air Force surgeons general as well as the Joint Staff surgeon; the Defense Health Agency director; and the president of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHS had embarked on reforms and initiatives to improve its medical support to the armed services.

Those reforms were intended to “develop a long-term strategic framework to help all MHS components to better coordinate and integrate their efforts and our shared mission of ensuring a ready medical force,” McCaffery said, but the pandemic forced a pause in several reform initiatives to ensure the MHS could properly focus on supporting the DOD and all government pandemic responses.

The MHS leadership team has resumed this effort to develop this long-term strategy, he noted. In November, the secretary “lifted the pause on activities supporting the transition of the management of all [Medical Treatment Facilities] MTFs from the services to the DHA and directed resumption of the department’s implementation plan to complete the transition by Sept. 30, 2021,” McCaffery said.

“The pandemic experience has underscored the need for a consolidated enterprise management of our health care system. Managing the department’s critical medical assets, under an enterprise framework, allows the health system to more effectively support the military departments’ man, train, and equip responsibilities that support a ready medical force,” he explained.

Having the private sector care under the TRICARE Health Plan and the DoD’s more than 700 military hospitals and clinics “under one joint agency will allow us to have standardized health care delivery policies and business practices across the entire military health system,” McCaffery said, “and that will go a long way to reducing undesirable variation for both providers and patients and improve our beneficiaries’ experience.”

The primary driver for this change is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. Congress mandated that a single agency will be responsible for the administration and management of all military hospitals and clinics to sustain and improve operational medical force readiness and the medical readiness of military members, improve beneficiaries' access to care and experience of care, improve health outcomes, and eliminate redundancies in medical costs and overhead across separate systems operated by the Army, Air Force and Navy.  DHA will be responsible for health care delivery and business operations across the Military Health System including budgets, information technology, health care administration and management, administrative policies and procedures, and military medical construction.

The impending COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration effort is testament to the DHA’s increasing role in standardizing and coordinating military medical strategy and Direct CareDirect care refers to military hospitals and clinics, also known as “military treatment facilities” and “MTFs.”direct care.

On Nov. 3, the Secretary of Defense established a DOD COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Operational Planning Team following release of the Trump Administration’s plan.

“The Defense Health Agency was directed in partnership with the Joint Staff to develop a standardized and coordinated strategy for prioritizing, distributing, and administering a COVID-19 pandemic vaccine through a phased approach to all active duty service members, their dependents and to all of our 9.6 million beneficiaries,” McCaffery said.

Military Health System dollars and people are central to the success of the government’s Operation Warp Speed to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to the U.S., McCaffery explained.

McCaffery stated that the initial COVID-19 military vaccination efforts will focus on those “critical to the response, providing direct care, and maintaining societal mission-essential functions, as well as those at highest risk for developing severe illness.”

In the U.S., four companies are in clinical trials with vaccines to combat COVID-19 (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen), and there are six vaccine candidates across three platforms: nucleic acid (Pfizer, Moderna), viral vector (AstraZeneca, Janssen) and protein sub-unit (Novavax, Sanofi).

One or two vaccines – from Pfizer and Moderna – are expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration soon. Both companies have applied for emergency use authorizations.

“Throughout this pandemic, the department must ensure we can continue to maintain its military readiness and ensure our national security,” McCaffery said. “As such, in addition to conducting clinical/diagnostic testing, the department established a tiered testing framework, that prioritizes testing service members and personnel associated with vital national security missions, our engaged field forces, and forward deployed or redeploying forces.”

That support also has included civilian health care facilities, especially in the hardest hit areas of the pandemic last spring and into the fall surge.

“From the onset of COVID-19, the department has mobilized more than 7,000 doctors, nurses, and medical technicians – both active duty and reserve – to support many civilian health systems, including deployment of military health care professionals in direct support of hospitals and alternate care facilities,” McCaffery said. “This support has been critical to the hardest-hit communities and enabled their hospitals to sustain operations in the midst of unprecedented demand for their services. These communities were in desperate need of help and it was the military health system that provided it.”

On a different front, MHS moved quickly to direct its medical research and development capability to support the national effort to respond to COVID-19, he noted.

“We leveraged our prior investments that built an infectious disease research, development, and manufacturing infrastructure and our ongoing research on medical countermeasures to support the all-of-government effort to develop and manufacture vaccines and therapeutics to fight the virus,” McCaffery said.

One of the first approved therapeutics for COVID-19, remdesivir, was part of a DOD-sponsored research effort. Five MTFs are enrolling for the AstraZeneca vaccine clinical trial. The DOD also is supporting the development of Inovio’s vaccine.

Another major initiative that has been resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic is the deployment of the unified electronic health record (EHR) system called MHS GENESIS.

“Like our broader reforms, MHS GENESIS represents a concerted push toward standardization, integration and readiness,” McCaffery told AMSUS. There have been three waves of implementation that have launched MHS GENESIS at 19 military medical treatment facility commands since its rollout in 2017. Five additional waves will Go-Live in 2021.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is deploying the same EHR, “ensuring a seamless transition for service members during their career and into retirement,” he noted.

You also may be interested in...

It’s Not Over Yet: Some COVID Safety Precautions Remain Necessary

Article
7/22/2021
a crowd of people

Returning to society when fully vaccinated is great but keep that mask handy

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

How COVID-19 fast-tracked innovation in the Military Health System

Article
7/20/2021
Military personnel receiving the COVID-19 test

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every aspect of healthcare delivery, the Military Health System responded with new and innovative ways to fight the disease and deliver safe, quality care to patients.

Recommended Content:

Health Innovation Month | Innovation | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

San Antonio Market to Standardize, Optimize Local Healthcare

Article
7/19/2021
Military personnel unveiling flags

The Defense Health Agency’s San Antonio Market is the seventh market to stand up over the past year, and is designed to standardize, optimize local healthcare.

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Market Structure

Got Your 6

Video
7/16/2021
Got your 6

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil. Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Military Health System Transformation Will Improve Care & Innovation

Article
7/6/2021
Infographic about Health Innovation Month

MHS Innovation Must Be Backed by Best Practices, Standardization

Recommended Content:

July Toolkit | Health Innovation – Pathways to Ready Reliable Care | Health Innovations across the MHS Enterprise | Health Innovation Month | Research and Innovation | Military Health System Transformation | MHS Research Symposium

Changes ahead for BJACH with DHA Market Transition

Article
7/1/2021
Two generals shake hands

DHA was established in 2013 to provide a host of shared health services across the MHS and BJACH will transition within the next 30 days

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Small Market and Stand Alone MTF Organizations

COVID vaccinations rise -- but so do concerns of the Delta variant

Article
7/1/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask preparing a COVID-19 vaccine

MHS expected to reach 70% COVID-10 vaccination rate in July.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Battle Against the COVID-19 Delta Variant

Video
6/29/2021
COVID-19 Delta war infographic

Like our enemies in the past, the coronavirus has adapted and we're now dealing with the most transmissible variant yet, Delta. The fight can be won with vaccination. If you're not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus, go get your shot today. Otherwise you're at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Delta Variant

Infographic
6/28/2021
Graphic stating that the Delta variant is a reason to get vaccinated. The TRICARE logo is on the bottom right. Links to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine

The Delta variant of the virus is a reason to get vaccinated. The variant is expanding, especially where vaccination rates are low.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

The Delta Variant: Are You Protected?

Infographic
6/28/2021
Graphic with the title, “Are you Protected?” and the TRICARE logo on the bottom right. States that the Delta variant of the virus is spreading and that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective. Links to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective against the Delta Variant. If you've received your first dose, don't forget to get your second dose.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Delta Variant: Fact Check

Infographic
6/28/2021
A Fact Check graphic. Features a quote in the center of the graphic and states that the Delta variant is a reason to get vaccinated. The TRICARE logo is on the bottom right. Links to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine

The Delta variant of the virus is a reason to get vaccinated. This variant spreads easily, with increased rates of sickness and hospitalization.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Delta Variant: Stop the Spread

Infographic
6/28/2021
Graphic describing the Delta variant. Includes three bullet points describing the variant and a link to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine and includes the TRICARE logo on the bottom right.

The Delta variant is expanding, especially where vaccination rates are low. Visit www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine to learn more.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

New COVID-19 Delta Variant: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

Article
6/28/2021
Military personnel receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 Delta variant spreading rapidly; it’s time to get vaccinated

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Delta Variant

Got Your 6: June 26, 2021

Video
6/25/2021
Got Your 6 Infographic

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Delta Variant

The Delta Variant: A New Reason to Get Vaccinated

Video
6/25/2021
COVID-19 infographic

Are you a service member age 18 to 30? Are you unvaccinated? You may be entitled to severe disease, hospitalization, and death. To avoid these options, get vaccinated today!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 50

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.