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 | 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...

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Infographic
6/9/2021
Describes how the mRNA and viral vector vaccines work to educate beneficiaries about the COVID-19 vaccines.

This graphic showing how the mRNA and viral vector vaccines work to educate beneficiaries about the COVID-19 vaccines. Graphics are informational and provide facts on how they work in our bodies.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccines Safety Monitoring

Infographic
6/9/2021
Graphic that assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines are monitored for safety. Has information on how they are being reviewed. Graphics include doctors in a laboratory and a doctor with a shield fending off the virus. The MHS and TRICARE logos are on the bottom right.

Graphic that assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines are monitored for safety. Has information on how they are being reviewed. Graphics include doctors in a laboratory and a doctor with a shield fending off the virus.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines - Main Infographic

Infographic
6/9/2021
An infographic describing the COVID-19 Vaccines, How they Work and Safety Monitoring Processes

This infographic pulls all three COVID-19 topics together in one graphic: Getting to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines, How they Work and Safety Monitoring

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Infographic
6/9/2021
Assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines will not give you the virus, does not affect our DNA, and is safe.

This graphic that assures beneficiaries that the vaccines will not give you the virus, does not affect our DNA, and is safe. Graphics include a person receiving the vaccine and a comparison graphic of COVID-19 trials versus other trials.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

VAX Facts about Getting the COVID Vaccine at the Same Time as Others

Publication
6/9/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines (Combined)

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn about the vaccines, how they work and safety precautions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring

Publication
6/9/2021

The FDA and CDC continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. CDC has an independent group of experts that reviews all the safety data as it comes in and provides regular safety updates.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Publication
6/9/2021

Learn how the different COVID-19 vaccines work.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Got Your 6 - June 6, 2021

Video
6/7/2021
Video screen image for the June 6, 2021 Got Your Six video

"Got Your 6" is TRICARE's COVID-19 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 for a DoD-affiliated, and TRICARE beneficiary audience.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Facemask Required

Infographic
6/4/2021
COVID-19 poster showing doctors and patients in a health care setting wearing masks. The sign reads, "Masks are required in health care settings even if you're fully vaccinated. Please make sure your mask is on."

While the CDC relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated people, you're still required to wear masks in health care settings. Print this poster and put it around your facility to let patients and visitors know the requirements.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Prevent COVID-19

Army’s 773rd administers mobile COVID-19 testing during DEF21

Article
6/4/2021
Three military personnel, wearing masks and lab coats, pose for a picture in an Albanian lab.

Approximately 800 Army Reserve soldiers from the U.S. and Europe participated in DEFENDER-Europe 21.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Readiness Capabilities

Mental Health Panel Discusses Impact of COVID-19

Article
6/3/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask speaking on a panel

Walter Reed Bethesda hosts mental health panel to discuss the impacts of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | Psychological Fitness

Based on data, MHS experts encourage vaccines for adolescents

Article
6/1/2021
Sister and brother smiling at each other

With the Pfizer vaccine approved for youth ages 12 to 15, MHS adolescents are lining up to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Children's Health | Vaccine Eligibility

“Shots in arms” – OPT planned & coordinated to meet COVID-19 mission

Article
5/28/2021
Military personnel sitting around a table talking

The Department of Defense’s COVID-19 Operational Planning Team has been the quiet force behind the DOD’s vaccination effort since November.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 52

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.