DLA, DHA, services collaborate to improve military healthcare through standardization

By Shawn J. Jones DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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More than 100 Defense Department healthcare professionals gathered in Philadelphia to increase the standardization of military medical materiel and equipment during a three-day workshop Nov. 15-17.

Medical standardization across DoD improves clinical outcomes, enhances readiness and training, controls costs and improves DoD-wide interoperability, said Air Force Maj. Brandee Haynes, the program manager and contracting officer representative with the DHA’s Medical Materiel Enterprise Standardization Office.

The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Medical supply chain hosted the workshop, which also included representatives from DHA, service branch clinicians and logisticians, and private industry.

They addressed topics such as standardization practices and procedures, overcoming barriers to standardization, e-commerce and strategic sourcing initiatives and marketing.

The most significant benefit of standardization, Haynes said, is the potential to provide better healthcare outcomes for all military healthcare patients, especially those who risk their lives while fighting the nation’s wars.

A service member wounded in combat may encounter a wide range of medical professionals from different specialties and services, including treatment from combat medics, through medical evacuations and to a military hospital staff.

As the wounded service member moves across the healthcare continuum, standardization of equipment and supplies can help eliminate the delays caused by unfamiliarity or incompatibility, Haynes said.

In addition to saving lives and improving patient care, medical standardization saves money.

Army Brig. Gen. Charles Hamilton, DLA Troop Support commander, told workshop attendees that military medical standardization saved more than $17 million in fiscal 2015 and more than $13 million so far in 2016.

“That’s a tremendous job in being fiscally responsible for the taxpayer,” he said.

All medical material standardization, for supplies and equipment, is first clinically vetted. After those products are determined to meet staff and patient needs, they’re evaluated to ensure sufficient quality.

Much of the savings obtained are realized by aggregating each individual service’s medical materiel requirements into a single or fewer requirements. The larger procurement volume of each selected product leads to better buying power, as suppliers and vendors provide discounts as order volume increases.

More than 80 product lines with almost 2,000 products are purchased in this manner at 250 military treatment facilities. And new standardization initiatives are in the pipeline.

The next big wave of medical standardization will focus on medical equipment that will address both peacetime and wartime capabilities. The first equipment standardization project was completed this year, and six more equipment projects are being developed. The relative high dollar-value of medical equipment enables standardization-driven buying power to yield significant savings.

As military medical standardization moves forward, Hamilton encouraged the workshop attendees to keep their industry partners informed as much as is legally and contractually appropriate.

“You can go back to any war you want, and industry has always been there in a great way,” he said. “Don’t ever take them for granted.”

Industry needs transparency from the military medical enterprise to make investments and other business decisions, he said.

“We don’t want to pick up the phone one day to call certain companies that have been providing us great service, and they’re not there anymore because they’re out of business because we haven’t been transparent,” Hamilton said. “To get the innovation we need, it’s going to come from industry.”

While the commander hopes to grow relationships with private industry, he said he has no doubt about the strong relationship between DHA and DLA Troop Support. It’s something he noticed when he first took command.

“The critical nature of DLA Troop Support’s relationship with DHA was clear to me right away, partnering to continue world-class health care to our military, retirees and their dependents,” he said. “Since October 2013, that relationship has developed at blinding speed, from a theoretical concept of providing quality medical support at reduced costs, to the reality of the work you all do to identify opportunities for standardization, working with the services and our industry partners to make the system more efficient.”