Defense Media Network: Interview: Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, MD, Director, Defense Health Agency

“Veterans Affairs & Military Medicine Outlook: Let’s start with the obvious. COVID has hit the military and veteran communities pretty hard. Has the global pandemic changed the way DHA does business?”

“Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place: I think that it’s important to start by recognizing the challenges that millions of Americans have had to navigate, along with the specific challenges to those who deliver health care. In that light, I think that the pandemic changed the way everyone does business! The questions for all of us are these: Were these changes ones that we should have made sooner and it took a crisis for us to act? Or are these changes that were borne of the moment, and that were smart steps to take and deal with the crisis, but don’t fit into longterm plans?”


“Virtual health is the perfect place to start. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Military Health System [MHS] developed a wide range of capabilities to support use of telemedicine in both operational and garrison environments. We were doing virtual health before virtual health was cool, whether that was moving radiologic images from ships at sea, or building a global electronic health record [EHR] that captured health care delivery from the point of injury to care in the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs]. We had plenty to be proud of – and we helped move the industry – so I don’t think we were way behind the curve.”

“Yet when the pandemic hit, we had 60 to 70 percent of our work move to virtual environments – primary care visits, behavioral health, specialty consults (both surgical and medical). You get the idea. The good news was this – our medical infrastructure was ready; we managed this transition in record time; and we got the word out to our patients. Everyone – patients and providers – adapted pretty quickly. We learned that some of this care could have been virtual much sooner.”

“On the flip side, we can go too far. Some care is likely better performed in person – and methods to evaluate the effectiveness of the venue often [are] lacking. Some people chose to avoid care rather than getting it virtually or coming in for care. We are in the early stages of encouraging people to come back in for needed care – whether that’s immunizations, preventive screenings, or regular laboratory analysis.”

“We were forced to innovate quickly, which on balance has been good for sustaining access and is sensitive to patients’ needs. But, we need to keep this in balance…” Read the full article here.

Source: Interview: Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, MD, Director, Defense Health Agency — May 10, 2021. Defense Media Network.



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