The Defense Health Agency says it has embraced and begun to adopt recommendations to improve health care services for military children.
The recommendations come from independent medical experts on the Defense Health Board, a federal advisory panel serving the defense secretary. Most recently, it spent almost two years studying how effectively health care is delivered and tracked for 2.7 million children of America's armed forces.
The board found weaknesses: inconsistent and incomplete data collection on pediatric services; unused tools to track patient satisfaction; uneven access to medical and behavioral care based on family assignment; difficulty coordinating care for complex pediatric medical needs across a complex health system, and a need for that system to show greater flexibility as it continues to apply Medicare guidelines to the delivery of health benefits for children.
Jeremy Hilton, a military spouse, father of a special-needs child and longtime advocate for improving quality of pediatric services, praised the 204-page Pediatric Health Care Services report, as delivered to the Defense Health Agency in draft form in August. It is expected to be released as a final report in October.
Hilton lauded the caliber of board members, which included a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs and past presidents of the American Medical Association, and the scope of its findings.
Navy Capt. Edward Simmer, chief clinical officer for Tricare Health Plans for the Defense Health Agency, said Tuesday that his agency is implementing its suggestions "as quickly as we can."
The agency is taking actions to improve both the coordination and standardization of care provided to children across the military health system; improve communication among providers of pediatric care both in the military direct care system and across purchased care networks of civilian providers; improve data collection to record and measure outcomes of pediatric care accurately; and make health care benefits for children more flexible.
The report is "loud and clear" on the need to do better collecting and analyzing pediatric health care data to improve benefits for children, Simmer said.
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