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Panel Assesses Quality of Military Health Care

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 1999 – A new federal advisory committee is evaluating how well DoD is improving the quality of health care it provides some 9 million eligible beneficiaries.

The Healthcare Quality Initiatives Review Panel has met twice since Sept. 21 to review access and quality improvement initiatives begun in early 1998 and to assess how well DoD has done in achieving quality objectives, including:

o Better education and training programs for physicians and other health care providers;

o Establishing "centers of excellence" for complicated surgical procedures;

o Reporting malpractice and adverse credential issues to the National Practitioner Data Bank (a service designed to prevent physicians who lose their license to practice in one state from seeking new credentials in another state);

o Providing beneficiaries comprehensive information on the quality of health care they receive;

o Making sure laboratory standards are met; and

o Ensuring the accuracy of patient information.

Panel members, appointed by Defense Secretary William Cohen, include physicians, nurses and representatives from service organizations that support the armed forces.

The panel will meet again from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 16 in the Nathan Hale Room, Wardman Tower, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Road, N.W., Washington. The meeting is open to the public, and a portion of the meeting will be set aside for public comments. Beneficiaries also can submit comments about military health care to the panel through:

Deputy Operations Director, Population Health and Clinical Quality (ATTN: Lt. Col. James Williamson, USAF) TRICARE Management Activity Skyline 5, Suite 810 5111 Leesburg Pike Falls Church, VA 22041.

Williamson said the panel will hold at least three more meetings and also plans to visit other sites around the country before submitting its initial report to Cohen in March or April 2000.

"We want to visit military treatment facilities and talk to commanders, quality management directors and facility personnel," said Williamson, who serves as an alternate panel member. He said no specific sites have been selected, but the panel would like to visit areas where all three medical service departments have operations. "That doesn't rule out visiting remote locations as well," he said.

DoD's senior health official, Dr. Sue Bailey, urged beneficiaries to give the panel input either by attending its Nov. 16 meeting or mailing comments to Williamson.

"The measure of any health care system is the quality of care provided to its beneficiaries," said Bailey, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "We believe that the military health system provides excellent quality health care, and we continue to find ways to improve. This new panel will assist us in our efforts to be a world-class health care system."

The panel was established under the auspices of the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. The act ensures the objectivity and public accessibility of advice rendered to the executive branch by various advisory committees, task forces, boards and commissions formed over the years by Congress and the president.

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