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TRICARE Puts New Emphasis on Prevention

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2001 – The military health system is rapidly changing from a system that deals with health problems to one that prevents them, TRICARE officials said.

"We're moving to a time when every enrollee in the ... system will know their provider," Dr. H. James T. Sears said Jan. 22 at the annual TRICARE Conference here. "That provider will know them and their health status, will have met their unmet medical needs, and will be actively maintaining their health."

Sears is executive director of the TRICARE Management Agency here. Healthcare providers and administrators from throughout DoD are meeting through Jan. 25 to discuss advances and issues affecting them.

Sears cited many recent improvements in claims processing and access to care and told conferees they are participating in "the development of a model healthcare system for the nation." The next big steps, he said, will be launching computerized records and a national enrollment database in summer 2001 to ease enrollments and claims and to make population health trends easier to track.

He noted TRICARE is also planning a wide array of Internet- based services in the near future.

But to make TRICARE "the national model we want it to be," officials need to work on several areas, including "leadership committed to change, innovation and some risk taking," Sears said. He also cited two needs: organizational changes to eliminate redundancy, and a better way to pay for military medical care.

"We need a new process for funding the defense health program that removes our entitlement program from the discretionary budget on hand," Sears said. "We need to fund the benefit up front."

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