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By Heather Heiney, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 24, 2019
An Airman with the 21st Medical group checks a prescription at the Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, pharmacy Sept. 11, 2019. Airmen who are part of the 21st Medical Group will become integrated with the Defense Health Agency beginning Oct. 1, which has the four-part aim of improved readiness, better health, better care and lower costs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Bender)
Beginning Oct. 1, all medical treatment facilities in the continental United States across all branches of the military will integrate under the Defense Health Agency. Under this new umbrella, the 21st Medical Group will support DHA’s four-part aim of improved readiness, better health, better care and lower costs.
This transformation within the Military Health System was first signed into law under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. DHA is first and foremost a combat support agency and will provide a unified system of health and readiness with a continued focus on providing a medically ready force as well as a ready medical force.
Before the realignment to the DHA, the local military medical community had already established a close working relationship through the Colorado Military Health System. This system includes the 21st MDG at both Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases, the 10th Medical Group at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Evans Army Community Hospital at Ft. Carson and the 460th Medical Group at Buckley Air Force Base, all in Colorado.
“This is an exciting time in Air Force and military medicine,” said Col. Chris Vaughn, 21st Medical Group commander. “The Colorado Military Health System has been leading the way for integrated health care operations. The partnership within CMHS is already superb and will only grow. We continue to lean forward to advance the delivery of health care for over 165,000 eligible beneficiaries.”
The DHA will allow local medical personnel to work together even more closely to share resources and training.
For example, there is no inpatient treatment facility at Peterson, but under the DHA, 21st MDG medics will be able to perform advanced training in a hospital setting at Ft. Carson, and then carry those skills to any Air Force facility they may work at in the future without having to re-learn different processes and procedures.
Under this new structure, DHA will be responsible for budgetary matters, information technology, health care administration and management, administrative policies and procedures and military medical construction. The individual military services will remain responsible for maintaining command and control of military personnel, operational medicine and setting medical readiness standards.
“There’s a lot of transformation going on in the Air Force Medical Service, but locally you won’t see changes to the way we do business,” said Lt. Col. Jana Weiner, 21st Medical Squadron commander. “It’s about making us more joint, integrated and unified in our processes.”
Benefits already seen within the local area include a centralized appointment line, a joint refill pharmacy, integrated clinic planning, and resource sharing efforts. Also on the horizon is Military Health System Genesis. MHS Genesis is the DoD’s new electronic health record tentatively set to deploy locally in 2020. As the next generation electronic medical record, MHS Genesis will follow the patient throughout his or her career and become a single point for inpatient, outpatient and dental information.
“While organizational relationships will continue to evolve even after Oct. 1, our commitment to providing the highest level of care for our patients will not change,” Weiner said. “We remain dedicated to being a learning organization with a focus on quality, safety, and access.”