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

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

Military personnel receiving the COVID-19 test An Ohio National Guard soldier conducts a COVID-19 test during a pop-up testing drive-thru at Anthony Wayne Junior High School in Whitehouse, Ohio, on October 2020. (Photo by: Senior Airman Kregg York, 180th Fighter Wing Ohio National Guard).

Recommended Content:

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

In early 2020, as the Sars-CoV-2 virus was just beginning to spread across the United States, the Defense Health Agency was already working to coordinate epidemiological data on the emerging threat.

By March of 2020, as the virus was reaching nearly every state in America, the Military Health System was using new, molecular-based COVID-19 tests that enabled sample analysis and delivered results in just four to six hours.

Since then, it's been off to the races for the DHA and the MHS in general with regard to heath care innovations in the face of the virus.

The urgent demands of the pandemic forced the MHS to adjust quickly by building out new capabilities, implementing new customer-care techniques and launching massive new research efforts.

As a result, new and rapidly developed health care procedures have kept warfighters on post, ships at sea, and military medical professionals on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus.

"We can't ignore that COVID-19 has already irrevocably changed how we deliver care and will continue to do so," Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Sean Hipp, Director of DHA's Virtual Medical Center, said in July 2020.

"We must use the terrible clarity these unprecedented circumstances provide to honestly evaluate our tools and practices, and apply that wisdom to make real, lasting improvements to health care. This mindset of embracing innovation for the sake of our patients is already a hallmark of MHS providers. We find creative, clinically sound ways to treat our patients - no matter the obstacle."

The MHS has been a leader in virtual health, otherwise known as telehealth or telemedicine, using secure, accessible and compliant technology. The MHS Virtual Medical Center (VMC) has expanded virtual health tools for military patients and medical personnel across the services to ensure continuity of care during the COVID-19 pandemic. That's included mobile mental health tools and apps that have provided valuable support to people experiencing anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other problems during the COVID-19 crisis and its accompanying periods of isolation.

Another example is the MHS Nurse Advice Line, which since the earliest weeks of the crisis has provided patients with reliable access - via web chat, video, and phone - to registered nurses who are trained to triage beneficiaries.

The nurses provide advice on self-care, refer beneficiaries for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, or coordinate clinically appropriate care. The care could be a virtual appointment with a provider, a referral to an urgent care center, or a visit to the emergency room.

The pillars of MHS efforts to fight COVID-19 have been the execution of testing for the virus, and, more recently, rolling out vaccinations. Military and civilian lab managers and technicians have been among those on the front lines. Their work goes beyond that uncomfortable swab to the back of the nose that many have experienced.

"In addition to adding COVID-19 testing platforms … our team also vetted many additional products," said Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Nelson, chief of the Air Force Medical Service COVID Lab Team.

"We have advised on an array of testing methodologies to include diagnostic and asymptomatic pooling, wastewater surveillance and whole genome sequencing - mostly done on the research side of the house."

Military health personnel handling a patient sample  to test for COVID-19
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Harris, 96th Medical Group laboratory technician, handles a patient sample to test for COVID-19 in May 2020 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. All samples were handled within the biological safety cabinet, known as the “hood” to ensure no particles came into the room (Photo by: Ilka Cole, 96th Test Wing Public Affairs).

Customer Service

Other, more ground-level approaches to testing have played out across the country. The North Dakota Army National Guard coordinated drive-through testing sites with civilian counterparts and developed a system using an electronic tablet and a bar-coded label, speeding up the process and enabling about 1,000 tests to be done in just a couple of hours.

Elsewhere, staff at military hospitals and clinics quickly pivoted from mass vaccination events to pop-up events at high-traffic locations like installation exchanges and cafeterias.

And at Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, the medical staff took advantage of the CDC's recommended 15-minute waiting period for patients after the COVID-19 vaccines are given. The staff has been making appointments for routine care with patients who missed some of these checkups during the many months of quarantines.

"People weren't coming in to get their screenings at all - because of COVID they just didn't want to come in," said Tommy Franklin, Keesler Medical Center's director of staff.

"We tried to close that gap while they were coming in for the vaccines. It was 'Hey, oh by the way, we see you're behind on your pap smear, we see you're behind on your colon screening. Would you like to go ahead and get that screening scheduled now that you're here?'"

The goal was "to be able to use that window of opportunity to communicate with these folks and make eye-to-eye contact and let them know that "Hey, we're open and available to do this for you,'" Franklin said.

Keesler uses CarePoint, a DHA information delivery portal that's been around for a while, to check the medical records of those coming in for a vaccine. A new innovation, called the DHA Appointing Portal (DAP), made its debut earlier this spring after a pilot project launched in December. DAP is an easy-to-use online tool to help patients schedule a time and date for their COVID-19 vaccine appointment at a nearby military hospital or clinic.

At roughly the same time this spring, MHS GENESIS, the Department of Defense’s new electronic health record system, was developing a large digital record of COVID-19 vaccinations administered to service members and their families. Referred to as 'MassVax,' the archive more accurately tracks and ensures that the DOD's patient population has received COVID-19 vaccinations, considered essential to both a ready medical force and medically ready force.

New Research

Scientific studies on the disease by the military have proceeded apace, too. One involved clinical trials of a long-acting antibody combination medicine to prevent COVID-19 among people who have been exposed to the disease, a DOD initiative that involved the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science's Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Program.

Called STORM CHASER, the program coordinated teams of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and clinical research staff at five MHS locations from Maryland to Hawaii. Another objective of the study was examining whether the antibody injection could reduce viral shedding in those who may develop COVID-19 after receiving the injection. (Viral shedding occurs when the virus replicates inside the body and is released into the environment, making the host person contagious to others.)

Other solutions were less sophisticated. For instance, staff at many military hospitals and clinics developed inexpensive, easily constructed ventilators for use in hospital and field settings to make up for shortfalls in national stockpiles.

"The individual MTFs did an astounding job of expanding day-to-day testing," said Nelson, in a recent issue of the Biomedical Sciences Corps newsletter. "The organizational response to SARS-CoV-2 proved without a doubt that necessity truly is the mother of invention...and innovation!"

"One of the things that we were really impressed with in March, April, May and June of last year, was how fast DHA was cranking out guidance and policy to help the facilities as they navigated these waters," said Franklin.

"With another pandemic, God forbid, the rules and the way we play the game will change again. But at least for now we have a script and a foundation to start with."

You also may be interested in...

COVID-19 Vaccine PSA #2

Video
1/29/2021
DHA Seal

A Department of Defense Public Service Announcement communicating that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine provides a quicker return to life. Widespread vaccination against COVID-19 aligns with the Department of Defense’s priorities of protecting service members, DoD civilians, and families; safeguarding national security capabilities; and supporting the whole-of-nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Video by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Duckworth)

Recommended Content:

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

LTG Place Vaccine Roll-Out Video

Video
1/18/2021
DHA Seal

DHA Director LTG Ron Place talks about coronavirus vaccines, their safety and efficacy, and encourages everyone to do their own research to get vaccinated.

Recommended Content:

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

MHS Minute: December 2020

Video
12/28/2020
DHA Seal

See how MHS is leading a phased approach to offer 11.1 million Department of Defense personnel the first COVID-19 vaccines. To learn more about the safety and efficacy behind COVID-19 vaccines, go to: https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Combat-Support/Public-Health/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccine-Efforts.

Recommended Content:

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

MHS COVID Response

Video
12/21/2020
DHA Seal

The men and women of the Military Health System spent 2020 working to protect beneficiaries' health during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few of our accomplishments.

Recommended Content:

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

Heroes Behind the Mask

Video
12/17/2020
DHA Seal

A tribute to those across the Military Health System who deserve recognition and thanks for their hard work during this pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Response

Video
12/14/2020
DHA Seal

USPHS Lt. Courtney Labitzky, assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), talks about their position at JNYMS in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, April 29, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Video by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Vaccine Update | How Vaccines are Developed

Video
12/14/2020
COVID-19 Vaccine Update | How Vaccines are Developed

COVID-19 vaccines are within sight in the United States! Scientists continue making progress in testing and monitoring COVID-19 vaccines for safety and effectiveness, and the federal government is ensuring that all adults who want a vaccine will be able to get one at no cost. Learn how these and other vaccines are developed, tested, and authorized for use – and how they work to prevent diseases like COVID-19. This video uses interviews and visuals to help viewers understand the science behind vaccines and why there is reason for optimism. Experts featured in the video include: Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health; Dr, Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed; Dr. Stephen Hahn, Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, visit http://www.coronavirus.gov.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Immunization Healthcare | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Response2

Video
11/27/2020
DHA Seal

Army Spc. Sean Colangelo, assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), talks about their position at JNYMS in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, April 23, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Video by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Response

Video
11/27/2020
DHA Seal

Army Pfc. David Alvarado, assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), talks about their position at JNYMS in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, April 24, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Video by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

MHS Minute: November 2020

Video
11/27/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

During Warrior Care Month, we reflect on the strength and resilience of our nation's wounded, ill, and injured service members, and recognize the caregivers who support their recovery and rehabilitation.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Coronavirus | Warrior Care

How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe?

Video
11/3/2020
How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe?

This video provides a detailed overview of the processes that have been implemented to accelerate the pace of the COVID-19 vaccine and antibody studies, and what is being done to assure safety.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Importance of Enrolling Diverse Participants in COVID-19 Studies

Video
11/3/2020
The Importance of Enrolling Diverse Participants in COVID-19 Studies

This video discusses why enrolling diverse participants in COVID-19 studies is critical for ensuring that, when we find a vaccine, we have enough data from populations who are most affected by COVID-19 to determine vaccine safety and efficacy.

Recommended Content:

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

MHS Minute: Heroes Behind the Mask

Video
10/8/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

In the face of a global threat, healthcare heroes across the MHS have donned their mask, and served on the front line of the battle against COVID-19. Tune in to this month's "MHS Minute" to learn more!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

The Military Health System Celebrates Labor Day

Video
9/4/2020
The Military Health System Celebrates Labor Day

Labor Day pays tribute to the American workforce. This year, we pay tribute to the Military Health System Workforce.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

MHS Minute: A Call to Action for Convalescent Plasma Donation

Video
8/24/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

Have you recovered from COVID-19, or tested positive for antibodies? Consider donating convalescent plasma. For eligibility requirements, and to find a donor center near you, go to https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/Donors/COVID-19andBloodDonation.aspx

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Armed Services Blood Program
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 6

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.