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Agency of the Month examines the many important facets of government agencies. Each month, Federal News Radio speaks with top executives from a specific agency about the issues most important to its mission. The Agency of the Month for April 2014 - the Defense Health Agency.
DHA builds a healthier DoD workforce through shared services
Thursday - 4/10/2014, 3:31am EDT
By Lauren Larson
Federal News Radio
The newly-formed Defense Health Agency is working to implement 10 shared services to streamline health care for the entire Military Health System. The mission — to increase readiness through better health care at lower costs.
Navy Capt. James Poindexter, acting division chief of Medical Logistics Shared Services, and Dave Bowen, director of health care IT and chief information officer at the Defense Health Agency, discussed two of those shared services, heath information technology and medical logistics, on this week's Agency of the Month radio show.
Electronic health records
Often described as the Military Health System's weapons system, electronic health records will not only serve as a repository for treatment information, they will help operationalize processes at treatment facilities.
"We need to reduce our variability and standardize. The EHR is an opportunity to standardize the clinical process. This is a very big deal ... to get all your clinicians to agree to do everything the same way," Bowen said. "We're merging cultures and developing new processes. And so, most of it is about the change management, the culture management and the process."
Health IT systems and programs offer operational support to the care delivery process at a wide variety of treatment facilities including hospitals, clinics, remote field hospitals and ships. As the Military Health System transitions from the idea of health care to health, Heath IT programs are there to help promote healthy lifestyles with automated prompts for preventative care such as mammograms.
Bowen said as the agency works to get everyone on the same page, it's surprising just how different each of the services is.
"It's really not an exercise in technology it's an exercise in anthropology. We're bringing together sort of three major tribes with different cultures, different practices, different standards, different ways of operating," Bowen said.
Through the Defense Medical Materiel Program Office (DMMPO), formerly known as the Defense Medical Standardization Board (DMSB), Medical Logistics (MEDLOG) is getting the services to use the same medical supplies. Instead of stocking any number of different brands of rubber gloves, for example, they're getting medical treatment facilities to order the same brands so they can maximize buying power to negotiate discounted pricing.
The goal is to increase the number of standardized products and increase ordering compliance. Today, the agency has 37 different product groups that represent close to 1,300 different standardized products. In a year, it has gone from 55 percent ordering compliance to 77 percent today, with a target of 80 percent.
Poindexter attributes MEDLOG's early success to "a very collegial integrated group of professionals from all the services." He said together they have been thinking jointly for years.
A mix of 49 civilian and military personnel make up the Medical Logistics team. "We went in fairly light compared to the other shared services. We're being effective," Poindexter said.
There is no money flowing through MEDLOG since it does not execute the product lines. "We wanted to stay at a high operating level to influence change management. In collaboration with DLA, let's influence change in a positive way," Poindexter said.
"We have a good relationship with all the log chiefs and it's all about transparency. We all agreed up front that we'd have unlimited access to the data. We started a year ago, laying results on the table for senior leadership. It's a matter of good communication, paying attention to it. Having transparency on the metrics has led to interest at all levels of the organization about our standardization program," Poindexter said.
MORE AGENCY OF THE MONTH INTERVIEWS:
April 3, 2014 - Interview with Major General Richard Thomas, chief medical officer and director of DHA Healthcare Operations