YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The military is setting new standards for the foreign hospitals and doctors who treat troops and their families living abroad.

As part of Tricare’s plan to consolidate overseas medical and dental claims and billing processes, military hospitals will soon be limited in where they send patients for off-base care.

Pennsylvania-based International SOS (ISOS) is in the process of establishing "provider networks" near overseas bases where Tricare patients will be referred when in need of treatment not offered by military hospitals, which until now had controlled the practice. Military doctors will still be able to choose one facility over another within the network.

ISOS will also manage claims, billing and related customer service for the estimated 500,000 troops, retirees and dependents under its five-year $269 million contract with Tricare, the military’s health care management agency.

The foreign hospitals and doctors currently used to treat military patients overseas will likely overlap with those ISOS selects by the time the new system launches this fall, officials said.

The company is now working with individual military hospitals around the world to "maintain those relationships that have already been established," said Danita Hunter, chief of Tricare Overseas Program Office in Virginia.

Still, ISOS will make the ultimate decision, in effect standardizing the method used to credential foreign hospitals and doctors to treat military patients. Much of the process ensures that those providers meet Western standards of care, said ISOS spokeswoman Erin Giordano.

The company has delivered overseas health care services for public organizations and private corporations since 1985. In 1998, ISOS began handling Tricare claims and referrals for troops in remote overseas locations, a responsibility now folded into its current contract with Tricare — a consolidation of six contracts the military had with private companies for overseas health care support services.

When the new system becomes operational in September it should be a "seamless" transition for Tricare patients, Hunter said, adding that ISOS will have employees working at many military hospitals overseas by then.

Meanwhile, military hospital administrators such as Army Lt. Col. Hugh McLean said it will be essential to preserve relationships with off-base health care providers despite the change.

Though ISOS will control where military patients go for off-base care, the military hospitals will still be in charge of the process for civilian military employees, many of whom are treated by military doctors but have private medical insurance.

"We need them, and our patients need them," said McLean, chief of staff and deputy commander of administration at the medical clinic at Camp Zama, Japan.

Individual hospitals and clinics will still be responsible for providing translation services, escorts and visits by military doctors to patients in foreign treatment facilities, which are benefits not covered under Tricare. Not all military hospitals provide such services but must pay for them from their own budgets or charge civilian patients.

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