Army hospitals will provide routine tests and treatment more rapidly for Warriors in Transition and soldiers within 90 days of deploying or within 180 days of return from deployment, according to a U.S. Army Medical Command policy memorandum issued May 30.
The new policy shortens the access to care standards for routine primary care from seven days to three working days, and for specialty care from 28 days to seven working days (three working days in some cases of initial specialty care). It also establishes standards of seven days for diagnostic tests and 14 days for medically indicated non-emergency surgeries required to reach optimum medical benefit or fitness for duty status.
The access to care standard for urgent care remains 24 hours.
Warriors in Transition are defined as soldiers who meet the qualifications for medical hold, medical holdover or active duty medical extension; and Active Component soldiers who require a medical evaluation board or have complex medical needs requiring more than six months of treatment. The term does not normally apply to soldiers in initial entry training, advanced individual training or one station unit training.
Warriors in Transition are to receive an initial evaluation screening within one working day after entering a Warrior Transition Unit, the organizations that provide command and control support for such soldiers at Army hospitals.
“This population has a need for expedited medical care. We want to quickly return these soldiers to duty, or transition them to civilian life. We developed this policy to ensure soldiers can rapidly access the care they need.” said Maj. Bill Judd, senior health policy analyst in Medical Command’s directorate of health policy and services.
Every Army hospital now will dedicate at least one physician to the medical evaluation board process, which determines if injured soldiers meet standards to remain in the Army. Warriors in Transition will be assigned primary care managers and nurse care managers, and at some facilities social workers, to help them complete their treatment and navigate the health-care system. Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officers, who counsel soldiers undergoing physical disability evaluation, will be certified through standardized training.
“We understand that to speed these soldiers through the system and also meet access standards for other beneficiaries, we might have to refer more patients to network civilian providers,” Judd said.
Soldiers’ families or retired service members who cannot be seen at a military facility receive subsidized care through the TRICARE network of more then 220,000 civilian health-care providers and 55,000 retail pharmacies.
The changes should be in effect by the end of July.