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Private and Public Collaboration Key to Defense Health Agency Vision for the Future

Image of Naomi Escoffery, DHA’s chief innovation officer speaks at conference. Naomi Escoffery, DHA’s chief innovation officer and deputy to the deputy assistant director of acquisitions and sustainment and chief accelerator officer, talked about the DHA is transforming its health care delivery model to align with patients’ needs at the 2024 HIMSS Global Health Conference held in Orlando, Florida, on March 12. Her talk was titled, “Revolutionizing Military Health Care Delivery: A Justification for Change.” (Robert Hammer, MHS Communications)

Using technology in the delivery of health care and creating effective partnerships were the focus of the Defense Health Agency and health tech innovators at a recent worldwide health information technology conference.

“Though I will be talking a lot about technology, the larger picture—the bigger idea that transcends technology—is that technology is an enabler. And health is the requirement,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director of the DHA, during her presentation at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Orlando, Florida, March 11-15.

She shared that finding ways to take advantage of new technology to create a better and “person-centric” health care delivery system is what the DHA is striving to achieve.

In her talk, titled, “Revolutionizing Military Health Care Delivery: A Justification for Change,” Naomi Escoffery, DHA’s deputy to the deputy assistant director of acquisitions and sustainment and chief accelerator officer, talked about improving the patient experience through innovation and partnerships.

She defined innovation as “technology that will bring value, that we can implement quickly, and that we can scale across our system. Innovative technology needs to be in support of enterprise performance that significantly improves the performance of the DHA.”

Escoffery explained how innovations like artificial intelligence, digital health, immersive technologies, and robotics a few of the tools were just that are part of the DHAs innovation lines of effort. She noted that priorities for the DHA are being digital-first, people-centered, and having an integrated system of care.

She emphasized that the DHA needs to keep up with emerging technologies and find ways to better serve the patient, because the DHA “operates a no-fail mission.”

Talking about the uniqueness of health care delivery within the Military Health System and the unique challenges that it presents, she noted that, “our population is unique, because our providers are also our patients.”

Creating Partnerships Vital to Sustaining DHA Current and Future Advancements

Crosland explained that any partner needs to be focused on the patient first, and technology second, and a willingness to help change one of the most “unique health care systems in the world.”

“The need for close collaboration with industry has never been greater,” Crosland told attendees. “We need partnerships with industry that lets us have access to a variety of vendors who are ready and willing to adapt to the most current technology and will help us with our inclination to think virtual first.”

“We cannot do this in a vacuum. We need partners, and we need to be clear about what we want from our future partners,” Crosland said.

She focused on three areas that the DHA wants to work with potential vendors on, both public and private: the patient experience and changing the core model for health care, provider support with technology in the health ecosystem, and data management support.

Escoffery talked about the importance of not only working with industry partners, but other government partners like the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Immersive technologies are a space where we can actually collaborate with the VA, and they're leading the charge,” said Escoffery.

She said that partnering is “a long-term commitment because we have 9.6 million people that expects us to do this. They deserve modern technologies. They deserve it quick and right, and they deserve to have a seamless integration from purchase care to Click to closeDirect CareDirect care refers to military hospitals and clinics, also known as “military treatment facilities” and “MTFs.”direct care, and direct care to purchase care.”

Modernizing MHS for Enhanced Health Care Delivery

Seileen Mullen, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, discussed the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive innovation in the MHS during the policy changemakers luncheon on March 12. Her presentation was titled, “Modernizing the Military Health System by Leveraging Data and Advanced Analytics/Data and Information.”

She talked about how the Department of Defense is not only looking at the use of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, but what precautions need to be taken against any dangers that may exist.

“We have to coordinate with other DOD agencies, federal agencies, and others like the Uniformed Services University,” Mullen said, while emphasizing partnerships to ensure that these technologies are safe and trustworthy.

She noted that five key priorities for promoting trustworthy AI/ML in the MHS are:

  • Maintaining AI/ML inventory
  • Enacting guidance for responsible AI
  • roviding guidance for trustworthy generative AI
  • Promoting and enabling digital workforce
  • Coordinating with other DOD and federal agencies

Dr. Paul Cordts, the deputy assistant director of medical affairs for the DHA and its chief medical officer, gave a presentation on precision care and genetic testing, titled, “Defense Health Agency: Clinical Genomics and Precision Medicine Program.”

“The clinical genomics and precision medicine program proposes a series of integrated and complementary objectives to meet and exceed standards of care in clinical genomics and precision medicine to: Optimize military readiness, protect beneficiaries’ genetic data and enhance national security, and reduce cost of genetic testing and analysis,” said Cordts.

He said, “the goal is tailoring patients' medications to their genomes,” and noted that genetic testing could be used to prescribe proper and effective medication for hot topic issues like behavioral health, as an example.

Crosland concluded with her vision for the way forward for DHA, saying, “We are here crafting a future where health care transcends traditional boundaries, offering unwavering support and exceptional health care experience to service members, their families, retirees, and all those we have the honor to serve. This is the future we're creating today.”

She added, “We cannot fail.”

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