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Air Force says new medical system significantly reduced airmen’s downtime

Airman 1st Class Geoffrey Elungata takes part in a joint service exercise in Sikeston, Mo., June 22, 2019, that provided training for servicemembers and care to the local community. A new Air Force system of delivering medical care that was found in a test run in 2018 to significantly reduce the number of active-duty airmen who are non-mission capable is being rolled out nationwide.

By CHRISTOPHER DENNIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 19, 2019

A test run of a new Air Force medical program was so successful at reducing the number of airmen who were sidelined and unable to perform their jobs that it’s being rolled out at bases across the U.S., officials said.

The 366th Medical Group at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, in a pilot study last year was able to significantly reduce the number of active duty servicemembers who were not mission-ready by visiting airmen in their duty locations, rather than waiting for airmen to come to them.

They learned about the challenges the servicemembers faced and partnered with unit leaders to manage the airmen’s care, the Air Force Surgeon General’s office said.

“We had more than 400 airmen on the base who were considered non-mission capable when we launched in March 2018,” Col. Steven Ward, then commander of the 366th Medical group, was quoted as saying by the Surgeon General’s office.

“In six months, we reduced that number by nearly one-fourth. Our provider teams focused relentlessly on getting airmen back into the fight.”

Following the success of the test run, the system is being taken nationwide, the Air Force has said. Initially, it will be rolled out at 43 Air Force medical facilities in the continental U.S.

The new system brings agencies that previously had separate, distinct health care roles under the umbrella of a service called the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency.

The AFMRA is expected to streamline the Air Force Medical Service “from a dual-focus on health benefit delivery and readiness to one laser-focused on readiness,” said Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg at a launch ceremony last month.

Some care teams will focus on proactively treating active duty airmen and “improving their availability to support the warfighting mission,” while others will care for the families of service members and military retirees, the Air Force said.

In addition to improving readiness among active-duty airmen, the new system saves non-active duty patients around 15 minutes per medical visit because they are no longer required to complete administrative paperwork each time they seek care, an Air Force spokesman said.

The changes are part of broader reforms to the Military Health System, which provides care to 1.4 million active duty servicemembers, and 331,000 reserve-component personnel, in addition to their families and military retirees.

dennis.christopher@stripes.com
Twitter: @chrisbdennis
 

Airmen take part in medical evacuation training at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, July 12, 2019. A new Air Force system of providing medical care that was found in a test run in 2018 to reduce the number of active-duty airmen who are non-mission capable is being rolled out nationwide.
DANIEL MARTINEZ/U.S. AIR FORCE

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