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Military Health Transformation Will Improve Care, Official Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2006 – The military health system is on the edge of a transformation that will create challenges, but will improve health care for the military and set standards for the entire country, a Defense Department official said here today.

"Transformation will not be easy; it will require us to change our culture, our mindsets and the way we do business everyday, but we have a comprehensive and workable plan," Stephen Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said at the State of the Military Health System 2006 Annual Conference.

The military health system already contributes to its patients, the military, and the advance of modern science, Jones said, and it has an opportunity to do even more as it transforms under the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Several themes run throughout the QDR road map for the military health system and define what the system will look like in a few years, Jones said.

The most important characteristic of the military health system will be its ability to be flexible and adapt to changing environments, Jones said.

"We need to have the ability to rapidly identify new challenges and then develop and deploy effective solutions," he said.

The military health system is challenged now to plan responses to mass casualties, epidemics, and continuously evolving combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jones said. DoD is focusing efforts to leverage science and technology to deliver solutions in these areas, he said.

With the constantly changing nature of the threats and the need for new responses, all branches of the military need to work together, Jones said. In the future, the military health system will be developed in a joint environment to combat the separatism that naturally occurs between the services, he said.

"Sometimes being joint is a little intimidating, because we recognize that we are reliant on the success of our partners," he said. "We are going to have to develop trust with all of our partners."

Changes will have to be made within the military health system to give leaders more authority and incentives for performance, Jones said. Placing value on outcomes like quality service and customer satisfaction will give employees more motivation and improve the system as a whole, he said.

Another important characteristic of the future military health system will be a partnership between the medical professionals and the patients, Jones said. Medical personnel need to understand their patients' needs and unique challenges and develop a regimen of care specific to them, all the while helping them choose healthier lifestyles, he said.

"Because of our long-term relationship with the military family member, we have a strong incentive to help them effectively manage their health," he said.

The transformation ahead for the military health system will produce challenges, but DoD is uniquely positioned to face these challenges and to set the mold for quality health care, Jones said.

"We at the military health system have all the ingredients and the ability to lead our nation in the right way to promote health, provide care and advance medical science," he said.

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Stephen Jones

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