“Army medicine has improved their comprehensive pain management program to help reduce a service member’s or dependent’s reliance on opioids or other pain medications”, according to Lt. General Nadja Y. West, Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S Army Medical Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
General West reports, “Chronic use of opioids peaked in FY 2007 and since the pain management program has been in place, we have seen a 45 percent decrease in use between FY 2012 and FY 2016.”
In addition to pain management, the Army has also made several changes in how healthcare is delivered. So far, the Army’s embedded behavioral health program assigns providers to operational units. Overall the use of behavioral healthcare has increased from about 900,000 encounters in FY 2007 to over 2.25 million in FY 2017.
The result is that the Army has seen a decrease in hospital admissions by about 41 percent. This amounts to 69,000 less admissions for acute behavioral health since the Army is now able to handle behavioral health issues locally and intervene earlier before the patient has to be admitted to the hospital. The Army’s Behavioral Health Data Portal enables practitioners to monitor clinical outcome metrics and refine behavioral health programs based on their metrics.
The Army has also expanded their virtual health capabilities to span 30 specialties, which is now delivered in 18 time zones to over 30 countries and territories. In response to Hurricane Maria, the Army linked virtual health capabilities in Puerto Rico with Army clinicians in Texas and in Georgia which could remotely coach first responders at the point of injury on special lifesaving trauma and advanced burn care techniques.