Intercepts

Women really do run the world
Because I’ve had the privilege of working for women for most of the past 30 years, the fact that women run the world is etched into stone for me. But it’s always good to see confirmation in other places, such as in the military services’ medical departments.

For the first time — and roughly half the population would probably say it’s about time — the Army, Navy and Air Force have tapped women to be their medical chief information officers.

I had the pleasure of meeting this CIO triumvirate at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in New Orleans, and I look forward to profiling them for the April issue of our Government Health IT magazine.

Until then, I’ll note for the record that this dynamite trio consists of Col. Vaseal Lewis of the  Army Medical Department; Col. Lee Harford of the  Air Force Medical Service; and the only civilian in the bunch, Mary Ann Rockey of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Rockey was a Federal Computer Week Fed 100 award winner in 2004 for her work on the Navy  Marine Corps Intranet when she was posted to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operation’s Fleet Readiness and Logistics Directorate.

An Air Force star
And I should add another woman of influence to the above list, Theresa Casey, who pinned on her brigadier general star this year as the Air Force’s assistant surgeon general for modernization. Her responsibility is developing an integrated medical information system.

Casey previously served as deputy command surgeon at Air Combat
Command.

How about a woman MHS CIO?
According to scuttlebutt the Interceptor picked up at the HIMSS conference, Carl Hendricks, CIO of the Military Health System, has decided to follow his boss, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder, into retirement. And that makes room at the top for another woman CIO.

Again, roughly half the population would probably agree it’s about time. Maybe the incoming ASD for Health Affairs, Dr. S. Ward Casscells, has a good woman in mind for the job. If not, I am sure the three medical service CIOs might know a candidate or two.

Joint Medical Command inevitable?
That’s the view of Maj.  Gen. Gale Pollock, Army deputy surgeon general and chief of the Army Nurse Corps, who told an HIMSS panel session that such a move would be a reality in a few years, even though the command must overcome years of politics and traditions for that to happen.

Current staffing of the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany proves that jointness works, Pollock said. The Army staff at LRMC, which handles all combat casualties from Iraq before they are sent stateside, has been augmented with hundreds of Air Force and Navy medical personnel, making LRMC “the best example of joint [services] I have ever seen,” Pollack said.

Big savings from teledermatology
Skin rashes don’t rank up there with some of the serious trauma injuries seen in Iraq, but they can still sideline troops. But Pollock told the conference that using teledermatology systems in the field helps ensure that those troops are not sidelined too long and saves $4.5 million a year in lost personnel time.

That seems like a much better treatment approach than I experienced in Vietnam, when I developed a real bad case of immersion foot from wandering around in rice paddies during monsoon season.

My friendly corpsman in 2nd Battalion 9th Marines said the problem would go away as long as I kept my feet dry. I reminded him that we were in the middle of monsoon season. He answered that the monsoon would end — sooner or later.

JPTA Mis-Communication
MHS was denying Department of Veterans Affairs doctors treating combat wounded soldiers access to the Joint Patient Tracking Application until The Washington Post pointed out the obvious absurdity, and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), ranking minority member on that panel, intervened with bipartisan clout.

Pollock attributed the mistake to miscommunication between the MHS community and the VA, saying that it was never the intention of MHS to deny VA clinicians access to patient tracking information. Pollock said MHS needs better processes for communication.

I can understand that problem. I’m still trying to figure out how to communicate better with the VA and MHS. Pollock assured me that when it comes to her office, I will get answers to my questions —  quickly.

She also asked me not to get her in trouble based on what she said at the HIMSS conference. I hope this column hasn’t done that.

Final MHS note
As a grateful recipient of combat care provided by the Navy during my tour in the Marines and as a witness to the Iraq and Afghanistan medevacs operations, I warmly salute the men and women who care for our wounded warriors.

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