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More Lethal…Medics?

  • Published
  • By Col. Terence T. Cunningham IV
  • 35th Medical Group Commander

In his October 2017 memo to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel, the Secretary of Defense challenged us all to “remain the world’s preeminent fighting force” by restoring readiness & building lethality, strengthening alliances, and bringing business reform to the DoD. Readiness and strengthening alliances make perfect sense to building a more lethal fighting force, but business reforms?

Approximately a year before the publishing of that Secretary of Defense memo was a passage of one of Congress’s annual bills known as the National Defense Authorization Act 2017 (NDAA17). That section of legislation directed reform across the medical departments in the Army, Navy and Air Force so that DoD can indeed remain the world’s preeminent fighting force. Through that legislation, Congress helped by cutting overhead, eliminating unnecessary processes, and standardizing how healthcare is delivered across the DoD. With the time and money saved through these actions, we will improve healthcare services to the warfighters and their family members, and in-turn increase ‘medical lethality.’

So what is the impact to active duty Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers? Better support with a focus on return to duty. The Air Force currently has tens of thousands of Airmen who are unable to perform their duties due to a medical condition. While a few may have a condition that cannot be quickly overcome, a vast majority could get better and back to work with a little more attention. In the coming year, we will gain the resources and authorities to ensure easier access to preventative care, greater resources to help you get and stay healthy, and quicker processes to retain those Airmen who have a medical condition but can still continue to serve. This is truly an increase in lethality.

So what is the impact to our families, retirees and beneficiaries? More responsive medical care. There are additional broad authorities within the NDAA17 language that allows us to provide care in non-standard ways. For instance, video-teleconferencing will soon come on line as a means to accomplish face-to-face appointments with doctors thousands of miles away. Some other doctor visits will now be accomplished by a telephone call only. And there will be an increased push for Tricare Online and the Nurse Advice Line as ways to get healthcare without having to come to our building. By not providing care the way we have always done it, but rather by providing efficient care when and where you need it, we will better meet your healthcare needs.      

Some things will not change at all. You will still have 24 hour a day access to the Urgent Care Center. You will still have a primary care provider who helps you manage your care. Laboratory, Radiology and Pharmacy will not change. We will still provide ambulance response on base when needed. And we will still remain a committed partner to your health and to our community.