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Keesler program brings important practices to AF healthcare

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Duncan McElroy
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force is moving to standardize healthcare of its Airmen, dependents and retiree population with a new program called the Human Performance Concept of Operations.

"The HP CONOPS is a big picture-style plan that will guide us for the next 10 or so years," explained Lt. Col. (Dr.) Shane Steiner, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron chief of training health. "It's a strategic document whose goal is to help people live to their maximum potential, rather than simply focusing on when they're already sick or hurt."

The three legs of the program - the Air Force Medical Home, Human Performance Operations Center and the Clinic Innovation Test and Evaluation System, all work together to provide more proactive, rather than reactive, medical care.

An Air Force-wide program that's meant to affect all TRICARE beneficiaries, HP CONOPS is focused on performance, evidence-based medicine and preventative care. The program is being implemented now and over the next several fiscal years will be fully operational.

"If you want people to live at their maximum potential, you can't just focus on when they're getting sick or already hurt," he said. "You have to go further and get them healthier than they were before. The idea is the healthier you are, the more resistant to injuries and illness you'll be, and the higher your performance level will be.

"Essentially, if your health is higher you're more resilient and more ready to accomplish the mission, which ultimately is to deploy," Steiner added. "This program really dovetails with the Air Force's resiliency concepts."

The health care initiative's tie to resiliency concepts and Comprehensive Airman Fitness goes deeper than simply trying to keep the service member physically healthy.

"HP CONOPS is meant for all TRICARE members," said Steiner. "If we have an Airman we need to send to war but his wife or dad or kid is really sick, his head isn't going to be in the game. You have to take care of the whole family. A major focus of HP CONOPS is improving the overall health of the entire Air Force population."

While the HP CONOPS sets out to reenergize Air Force healthcare, one section of the AFMH is constantly testing and expanding right here at Keesler - the Base Operational Medicine Cell.

"The BOMC is one of the two major components of the AFMH and essentially what it sets out to do is support primary care teams as they care for specific groups," Steiner explained. "People will be enrolled in primary care teams based on what they do; that means all the security forces guys will see one health care team, the finance guys will see a different team and so on. We already do this with pilots and navigators and other aircrew, and now we want to apply that thinking to everybody.

"That specific health care team will know its patients, they'll know the challenges that population has to being healthy and they'll be better at making them healthy," he added.

"This new, standardized way of making sure people are healthy will ensure the error margins are slimmed and the care is more effective." Steiner said.

Development of the BOMC is ongoing with the first phase rolling out this past February. By the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the fully-developed BOMC is planned for application.

"The BOMC looks past just the doctor visit. Direct patient care is actually a very small portion of healthcare because you don't usually go see a doctor until you're already sick or hurt," Steiner said. "If we think your health could be better than it is, the BOMC will communicate the results of your Public Health Assessment to the AFMH team with some recommendations on how to improve health; this is a standardized, evidence-based way of taking care of a person."

Steiner and his team, who were responsible for piloting the BOMC, saw a need to reformat how the process of taking care of people worked, and applied a boots-on-the-ground testing style to get results.

"Basically, the availability of Airmen to their commanders wasn't being managed proactively, so there were surprises, and that's not good," Steiner said. "Standardizing care for everyone how we did for our aircrew bumps up the efficiency and availability of our Airmen."

While the BOMC may be showing signs of success right now, testing still hasn't been completed. New iterations are being worked on to further improve the Air Force's greatest asset - its people.

"The innovative spirit is strong here, and it's all based on the dedication and zeal of the Airmen working at the ground level," said Col. (Dr.) Thomas Harrell, 81st Medical Group commander. "Our ultimate goal is to innovate and execute in order to restore time and focus on delivering medicine.

"We're doing a good thing here," Harrell continued. "We're doing the right work and allowing the right providers to focus on the people in front of them. Keesler and the BOMC project are the foundational level of AFMH. The work here is making sure we have medically ready Airmen with a fantastic corps of medics behind them."
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