Military Health System Uses Technology To Boost Quality
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2006 In concert with a presidential order to improve federal agency-managed or -sponsored health care, the Defense Department has embraced technology to boost the quality of military health care, improve medical information flow and monitor costs, a senior Defense Department official said here yesterday.
“The Department of Defense, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs, are leading the way in this very area,” Dr. William J. Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said during a Pentagon Channel interview.
DoD’s military health system has employed electronic medical record keeping as a way to accurately record and transmit such important information across the globe, Winkenwerder said. Use of such technology, he said, mirrors private-sector medical care community practice.
DoD and Veterans Affairs health-care providers also are seeking better methods of sharing important military medical information electronically, Winkenwerder said.
There’s also increased information transparency involving the cost of DoD-provided medical care, Winkenwerder said. The Web site for the department’s managed health-care system, called Tricare, he said, now displays the maximum allowable charges it pays for certain types of vendor-provided health-care services.
“If people want to better understand the price and the cost of what they’re receiving -- maybe shop around a little bit -– then, that might be a place that they would want to check out,” Winkenwerder said.
Active duty military members, Winkenwerder pointed out, aren’t required to pay for their personal medical care. However, he added, it would be educational for everyone to realize how much health care costs today.
“We know it’s going up, up, up. And, with our aging population and the technology with health care, it’s getting more expensive,” Winkenwerder said. “So, part of keeping that cost down is to create some competition and to create the incentives for people to use health care efficiently.”
President Bush’s order, signed Aug. 22, is titled, “Promoting Quality and Efficient Health Care In Federal Government Administered or Sponsored Health Care Programs.” It stipulates that health-care programs administered or sponsored by the federal government “promote quality and efficient delivery of health care through use of health information technology, transparency regarding health care quality and price, and better incentives for program beneficiaries, enrollees, and providers.”
The president’s order also stipulates that federal health-care providers “make relevant information available to these beneficiaries, enrollees and providers in a readily usable manner and in collaboration with similar initiatives in the private sector and non-federal public sector.”