Biggest change to military healthcare in decades is less than two weeks away

Posted at 10:44 AM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-18 21:29:02-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Major changes are coming to military healthcare, and they'll affect service members in Hampton Roads in less than two weeks.

(U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville/Released).

On October 1, the Army, Navy and Air Force components in the region will shift administration and management of their medical facilities to the Defense Health Agency.

The move will consolidate military hospitals and clinics under the single agency, marking the biggest organizational change in decades.

It stems from the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which ordered the change to a single agency in order to improve readiness and eliminate redundancies and cost inefficiencies that exist in three separate systems.

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Over the next two transitional years the Defense Health Agency says they will focus on the following objectives:

Centralized administration and management: On Oct. 1, all hospitals and clinics in the continental United States transition to the DHA, with the Army, Navy and Air Force medical departments maintaining a direct support role. Butler said this means that while DHA assumes overall management, the existing intermediate commands of the military departments will continue management duties until the transfer is complete to ensure uninterrupted medical readiness operations and patient care. The military departments and DHA are currently working out final plans to maintain continuity of operations.

Establish Health Care Markets: At the center of the reorganization is the creation of health care markets. The DHA will stand up 21 large markets during the transition period to manage MTFs in local areas. A market is a group of MTFs in a geographic area - typically anchored by a large hospital or medical center - that operate as a system sharing patients, providers, functions and budgets across facilities to improve the coordination and delivery of health care services. "These markets are really key to the entire reorganization," Butler said. "Market offices will provide centralized, day-to-day management and support to all MTFs within each market." Readiness support is at the heart of a market's responsibilities, Butler added, and they will ensure the clinical competency of all MTF providers within the market. The 21 large markets will collectively manage 246 medical facilities and centers of excellence.

Establishment of a Small Market and Stand-Alone MTF Organization: For stateside hospitals and clinics not aligned to a large market, this office, referred to as SSO, will provide managerial and clinical oversight. As with the large markets, the military departments will continue managing the MTFs until they are realigned under the SSO. There are 16 small market MTFs and 66 stand-alone MTFs assigned to the SSO.

Establish Defense Health Regions overseas: The transition period for standing up Defense Health Regions in Europe and Indo-Pacific begins in 2020. All MTFs overseas would then report to their respective DHA regional offices. The Indo-Pacific region has 43 MTFs, while the European region has 31.

You can learn more about the transition to the Defense Health Agency here.