In an effort to return Airmen to duty quicker, the Air Force is reorganizing medical personnel to restore the overall readiness of the military.
Under the Air Force Medical Reform model, dedicated provider care teams will align to an operational medical readiness squadron, focused on proactively treating Total Force Airmen and improving their availability to support the warfighting mission.
Separate provider teams aligned to a health care operations squadron will care for non-active duty patients, primarily the families of service members and military retirees.
“This new structure optimizes both priorities and allows us to return airmen back to full mission capability as quickly as possible without decrementing care to our beneficiaries,” said Brig. Gen. Susan J. Pietrykowski, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General director of manpower, personnel and resources. “Restructuring where care is delivered lets our providers focus on each group to improve the quality of care, create efficiencies, and most importantly, get injured or ill Airmen back into the fight more quickly.”
This organizational structure is based on a pilot the 366th Medical Group, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, began in summer 2018. The group reorganized into two squadrons with the goal of returning Airmen to duty as quickly as possible.
The pilot initially launched as part of a wing-wide initiative for the 366th Fighter Wing. Since the initial rollout, the 366th MDG has seen promising results.
“We had more than 400 Airmen on the base who were considered ‘non-mission capable’ when we launched in March 2018,” said Col. Steven Ward, the 366th MDG commander. “In six months, we reduced that number by nearly one-fourth. Our provider teams focused relentlessly on getting Airmen back into the fight.”
A provider team consists of medical and administrative professionals responsible for addressing a patient’s health care needs. They are responsible for coordinating care throughout the life cycle of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation as required.
In the Mountain Home AFB pilot, provider teams were able to holistically treat Airmen instead of waiting for an Airman to seek out care. They visit with Airmen in their duty locations to understand the personal and workplace challenges they face and partner with unit leaders to proactively manage Airmen’s care and minimize downtime.
“It was a real culture change for our provider teams focusing just on Airmen and building relationships with their assigned squadron and leadership,” Ward said. “That narrow focus really helps providers get to know their patients and solve health problems before they can negatively affect the mission.”
The renewed focus on readiness and returning Airmen to duty goes hand-in-hand with other reform efforts within the Air Force Medical Service and the Military Health System. Pietrykowski emphasized cooperation with the Defense Health Agency, as they assume a larger role at military treatment facilities.
“As we become a more integrated enterprise, it’s very important for us to learn from each other,” Pietrykowski said. “The current version of this new model isn’t final. It will continue to evolve as we roll it out to other locations and get a better understanding of each Total Force population’s specific needs.”
The AFMS plans to initially roll out the new medical organization model to 43 Air Force military treatment centers within the continental United States. Medical centers, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, graduate medical education facilities, overseas military treatment facilities and limited scope facilities will not initially move to the new organizational model.
The next phase of Medical Health System reforms will administratively transition the military treatment facilities of all military services to DHA responsibility October 1, 2019.