WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2014 —
As the Defense Health Agency approaches its one-year anniversary Oct. 1, it has already saved money and standardized health care in the Defense Department, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said today.
"The new medical agency was set up to establish common business processes and clinical practices for the Army, Navy and Air Force," Woodson said.
As the cost of health care continues to rise, Woodson said, DoD must leverage efficiencies, technology and standardization in order to continue to provide affordable, high-quality health care for service members and their families.
“It’s much more important that we have common business processes and common clinical practices that transcend the services,” he said.
The cost of health care has grown significantly, Woodson said. In 2001, DoD’s overall Military Health System budget was about $19 billion, he said, and by 2012 it grew to about $54 billion.
“We need to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, but we also we need to be good stewards within the broader Department of Defense family, because every dollar we spend –- necessarily so -- on protecting the health of service men and women and their families are dollars that can be applied to training, manning, equipping and modernizing the force,” Woodson said. “So there’s got to be a balance.”
DHA has already produced benefits in less than a year by saving money and producing clinical and business standardization, he said.
“We expect [DHA] to be a fantastic contribution going forward into the future that will make the Military Health System stronger, better and more relevant in the decades ahead,” Woodson said.
Service members and their families won’t notice much change, he said, although he called today’s military medicine more integrated with a joint approach to developing many health care programs and policies. Patients can count on more consistency, more depth in the programs, more availability of care, he added.
Military medicine today is about creating and maintaining the highest standards of care and making sure the department can resource all of its health care operations appropriately, Woodson said.
DHA will position the Military Health System to be more relevant and stronger in the future, and ensure resources are available to support a strong health care delivery system, Woodson said.
Calling the DHA’s collaboration between the Army’s, Navy’s and Air Force’s medical departments “wonderful,” Woodson said new ways to do businesses together are discovered every day.
“I think there are some very important and wonderful things coming out of this new approach to enterprise management of the Military Health System,” he noted.
“The establishment of the Defense Health Agency was probably one of the most important transformative changes in the Military Health System in five decades,” Woodson said. “And it was due.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)