Innovation in the Military Health System


Innovation in the Military Health System

Ten emerging technologies that will drive the future of military health 

What technologies will help military health systems enhance care standardisation, improve outcomes, and drive innovation?

Military health systems require innovation. Today’s health care is a reactive, retrospective process, with patchy access and inconsistent outcomes. Future care will be proactive and predictive. Beyond treatment, our systems will be concerned with monitoring health, advising on wellbeing, and intervening early. New technologies are driving this disruption and coming together to create new capabilities for health. Empowered consumers, focused on their wellbeing, are demanding better customised products and services. 

The key to making this envisioned future a reality is interoperable data and secure platforms that allow for information to be shared between patients, providers, institutions and researchers. Emerging technologies will help us gather this data, making it easier to source, share and act on near-perfect information. 

For military health, this will help attain the quadruple aim – readiness, better health, better care and best value. This ensures the nation’s ability by: (1) ensuring forces are ready to respond to any threat, (2) enhancing population health, (3) providing a convenient and high-quality experience of care, and (4) reducing health care costs.  

What technologies will be key in driving better data and making this future a reality? 

  1. Virtual health. The use of teleconferencing, mobile apps, and other technologies that allow patients to connect with health care providers across vast distances.
  2. Augmented reality. Technology that adds interactive, computer-generated elements to the user’s surrounding environment, or masks things that exist in the environment to train staff and patients.
  3. 3D printing. A technology that can be used to create prosthetic limbs, skin, organs, and implants for soldiers injured in battle.
  4. Robotic surgery. A type of minimally invasive surgery in which a surgeon controls the tools he or she needs at the bedside or remotely through a computer.
  5. Next-generation patient-centered care. Care that leverages health system-generated data and patient-generated data for better tailored care to each individual’s unique needs and desired outcomes.
  6. Wearables. Devices – such as wristbands and smart clothing – that can be worn to monitor an individual’s activities without limiting or interrupting regular movement.
  7. Augmented intelligence (AI). Technologies that supplement, inform, or perform tasks that otherwise require human cognitive capabilities.
  8. Blockchain. A record of transactions. Each transaction is validated in an encrypted system before being recorded and added to the ‘chain’.
  9. Precision medicine. Medical care that is tailored to a patient’s behaviour, social context, environment, and genome.
  10. Regenerative medicine. Care that involves creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue or organ function lost due to age, disease, damage, or congenital defects.

These innovations have the potential to expand the frontier of what is possible in the MHS while delivering on the quadruple aim. The MHS is not exempt from the changes that are shaking up the broader health care market. Patients who receive care through the MHS generally have the same expectations as customers in other health care systems. And, the desire to control health care costs is universal. All these forces make it important for the MHS to consider innovative strategies. 

Incorporating these 10 innovations will require changing how the MHS and its partners currently prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease. Leaders should determine which innovations create more value and enhance performance for less investment to achieve the missions. 

As military health leaders contemplate launching one or more of these initiatives, there are several steps they should consider taking: 

  • Set priorities, and then diversify the portfolio of innovation. 
  • Identify the MHS’s role in an innovation ecosystem, then build the ecosystem. 
  • Seek knowledge from non-traditional sources. 
  • Start with small pilots then scale up. 
  • Stay up to date and agile on new technologies and opportunities for innovation. 
Innovation in the Military Health System
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