We’ve found that in our culture, we need to acknowledge the fact, even though we don’t like to do so, that we will sometimes make errors. So we need to engineer our processes, and our equipment, and our facilities so that we have safety measures in place that will catch errors before they reach a patient.
The third important imperative that we must meet in this effort is to apply standards and use standards within our provision of care. Standards will help us be more consistent in terms of our approach and will allow us to also operate a military health system in which our staff moves from assignment to assignment, or even deploys, and they are all accustomed to practicing under the same standards. So those standards translate into the deployed environment, but they’re also consistent from one Air Force hospital to another and from one Air Force clinic to another.
Are those some of your biggest challenges today or are there any others you can point to?
I think Trusted Care and moving forward with the cultural change in Air Force Medicine to continue to provide safer care is one of our biggest challenges. The other challenge that I would say is one of our biggest challenges is sustaining our readiness as a medical force.
As I described earlier, we have a highly capable medical force that we ask to go into austere and difficult environments and to provide advanced care. Keeping that force ready day to day and prepared to go where they may need to go and to be able to provide the best quality care in any environment is a big challenge. And it’s really why we exist in uniform in military medicine.
In your February 2016 Senate testimony, you briefly mentioned some of the strategies to meet future needs of the Air Force and joint team. Can you talk briefly about how you see military medical care evolving in the future?
I think as we think about what our future operating concept would be in military medicine and in Air Force Medicine, in particular, there are six primary things that we believe will be encompassed in that future concept.
The first is our casualty care in the future will need to be increasingly agile and more capable. By more capable, I mean more capable in terms of taking advanced intervention techniques into the field hospital, but then also all the way to the point of injury and putting them in the hands of the medics who are forward deployed with the operational force.
No. 2 would be a continued emphasis on enhancing the ability of the airmen to perform day to day. Our airmen are being asked to perform in a complex array of mission capabilities and in a constantly changing threat environment. We are asking more and more of airmen in terms of their ability to perform and adapt and innovate in that performance.
No. 3 would be provision of high-quality, safe specialty care that meets the needs of our patients in terms of operational medicine as well as more traditional clinical medicine, but also sustaining a ready medical force by doing so.
No. 4 would be precise prevention-focused primary care. This is state-of-the-art primary care for airmen and their families to help them live a long, healthy life.
I’m privileged to be the surgeon general for an extraordinary group of medical professionals in Air Force Medicine.
No. 5 would be the integration of health data across the entire continuum of a member’s service and across the entire continuum of their health care, from the point they first fall under military medicine’s responsibility all the way through their care in the Veterans Administration following service or within our system following service – integrated data available across the entire continuum.
Then the sixth is global health. That is our ability to support the U.S. strategies by working as an international partner and engaging in global health imperatives around the world, whether that’s humanitarian assistance, capacity building, or partnerships with a foreign military service to increase their capability.
Those are the six primary things that fall within our future operating concept we believe in Air Force Medicine.
Currently, today, we have four primary focus areas where we have actions in progress right now that support that future operating concept and build us toward that destination.
The first of our focus areas is full-spectrum readiness and keeping the medical team clinically current and ready across the spectrum of the missions we support.
The second is integrated operations support. That is reaching beyond the walls of our clinics and hospitals into the operational units to provide health-oriented and performance-oriented support that is tailored to the mission.
The third is the Air Force Medical Home. That is really our instrument by which we have teams that provide primary care. That’s prevention oriented and provides coordinated care for complex chronic conditions.
Then the fourth focus area for us is Trusted Care – that renewed commitment to high-quality safe care.
Do you have any other takeaway messages you would care to share?
We, in Air Force Medicine, in military medicine, are the beneficiaries of strong support from the taxpayers of the United States, from the Congress, and from our leadership in the Department of Defense and the services. We value and appreciate that support.
We understand that we provide care for probably the most special patient population anywhere.
We take that obligation very seriously. I’m privileged to be the surgeon general for an extraordinary group of medical professionals in Air Force Medicine. We appreciate everybody’s support. I personally appreciate the great work by the men and women of Air Force Medicine. And I’m privileged to be their surgeon general.