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Customers Drive Military to Improve Obstetrics Care

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2003 – The military is aiming to improve the quality of medical care for women having a baby.

Customer surveys indicate that more can be done in military medicine in the area of obstetrics, noted Dr. David Tornberg, deputy assistant secretary of defense (Health Affairs) for clinical and program policy. Obstetrics is the branch of medicine concerned with the care and treatment of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the ensuing period.

Obstetrics beneficiaries have asked for a variety of benefits and changes, Tornberg noted. "We've taken those to heart and incorporated them into an improved OB program."

He said prospective mothers have asked for better communications between patients and health care providers. To address this request, he noted that military officials are working to establish "a team approach" to the delivery process.

Mothers will see the same group of providers consistently over the course of a nine-month pregnancy, he explained. This should elevate the comfort level of prospective mothers.

Another obstetrics concern that surfaced in customer surveys involves making doctor's appointments, Tornberg noted.

"We've begun to ease the OB appointment-making process," he pointed out, as well as increasing patients' access to gynecological specialists before pregnancy. Additionally, Tornberg pointed to the Web-based appointment conduit for TRICARE Prime patients, TRICARE Online, at http://www.tricareonline.com.

Other improvements include more private rooms after delivery, better lactation support, the ability to bring other children along to the appointment, more convenient parking, custom pre-natal education and birth plans, and comprehensive pain management.

Female active-duty service members and military spouses are the primary beneficiaries of OB care, he said. About 50,000 babies are born in DoD medical facilities each year, he estimated, and that obstetrics workload accounts for about 40 percent of all military health care business.

"That's a lot of business, and we're rolling out the new OB initiatives now," Tornberg remarked, noting that child care services at some hospitals and clinics will be offered to OB customers.

"TRICARE is family-oriented," he emphasized. "Our patients come absolutely first."

Tornberg said troops deployed in support of the war against global terrorism shouldn't worry about their loved ones' health care while they're away.

Those families in garrison "are in loving, caring hands. ... We will give them the very best of care," he concluded.

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