APRIL 13, 2015, PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) – By combining resources in a joint initiative between Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and the 633rd Medical Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, more than $1.5 million of taxpayer money has been saved in less than a year.
This joint venture means Air Force service members have Navy doctors caring for their children in an Air Force hospital, and Navy families’ babies are treated by Air Force nurses in a Navy hospital.
This innovative resource-sharing project has resulted in improved patient safety, significant cost savings, and convenience to families of newborns who need neonatal intensive care.
The project is coordinated by the Tidewater enhanced Multiservice Market, or eMSM for short. In an analysis of data from October 2013 to August 2014, more than 150 acutely ill newborns were diverted to civilian hospitals due to the limited number of neonatal ICU beds within the Tidewater military health system.
For babies who are transferred out, the continuity of patient care is disrupted, risking patient safety. Families must travel to visit their newborns, who often require weeks or months of hospitalization. And sending care to a civilian hospital contributes an additional $3 million for taxpayers.
All of these factors served as the impetus for combining resources within the eMSM. In 2013, the Defense Health Agency established six pilot joint-service eMSMs to encourage medical resource sharing. The only Navy-led market is in Tidewater, managed by Rear Adm. Terry Moulton.
The Tidewater market is composed of Navy, Air Force and Army medical assets at NMCP and Joint Base Langley-Eustis. The Tidewater eMSM serves 400,000 joint military forces in the market. Even though each facility is military, there’s been a limited history of sharing assets and workload. That’s now changing.
“We look at the data, and say here’s a specialty area that looks like we might be able to recapture some of this care, bring it back into the (military) direct care system. In that way we save money and provide better continuity of care for our beneficiaries,” said Col. Ronald L. Johnson, Tidewater eMSM Chief Operating Officer.
That led the Tidewater eMSM to shift Navy neonatologists and pediatricians to the Langley Air Force hospital in order to create a higher level of neonatal care. The change is working.
Air Force nurses now rotate in the neonatal intensive care unit at NMCP. This has expanded neonatal care capacity at both hospitals, allowing more acutely ill babies to receive their care within the military health system and without having to be moved to another facility. In only 10 months, the diversion of care has decreased by 86 percent, saving taxpayers more than $1.5 million.
With such a success rate in so short a period of time, the Defense Health Agency has funded the hiring of nine more neonatology staff to benefit military families in the Tidewater eMSM by adding capacity for this much needed service.
Johnson said approval and funding of the new positions were dependent on showing a return on investment, and the ROI is there: at Portsmouth and Langley.
“The additional staff expands the capability of the market. So between Langley and at Portsmouth, those assets would be used where deemed most appropriate based on the need,” Johnson said.
In the meantime, the eMSM continues to analyze the data to determine savings in other areas where the services’ medical assets can work jointly and maximize their value to service members and their families.