MARCH 3, 2021 – Multiple military optical fabrication laboratories in various Military Treatment Facilities throughout the United States are being connected electronically as the Defense Optical Fabrication Enterprise Management System (DOFEMS) comes online.
Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity (NOSTRA), Yorktown, VA was first to be connected on Jan. 11. Naval Health Clinic Quantico, VA was connected Feb. 4. Eight more Military Treatment Facilities will soon follow.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, Branch Health Clinic Mayport, FL, and Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Great Lakes, IL, all go live the first week of March. Naval Hospital Bremerton, WA, and Branch Health Clinic Parris Island, SC, will go live on April 9. Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA, will go online May 14. Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton will go live on May 31 and Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan on July 26.
DOFEMS is a revolutionary and innovative electronic, full-scale ordering and management system that further automates the production of eyewear across military optical fabrication laboratories. It eliminates some of the manual work performed by opticians and connected errors resulting in rework.
“All said and done, DOFEMS saves time and money associated with making changes or modifications, while getting combat and other military eyewear into the hands of warfighters and beneficiaries faster,” said Capt. Marc D. Herwitz, NOSTRA’s commanding officer. “This laboratory management system completely supports our commitment to readiness.”
NOSTRA is the Department of Defense (DoD) Program Executive Office for the Optical Fabrication Enterprise. It has oversight of military optical fabrication worldwide and one of its most significant undertaking is its role with DOFEMS, a system that will change how United States Government agencies fabricates spectacles for years to come.
Developing strategic partnerships with experts in various niche aspects of optical fabrication, contracting and information technology, was key to achieving success in this endeavor. The joint collaborations with the Defense Health Agency (DHA), DoD, and Naval Medical Logistics Command (NMLC), demonstrated the broad basis of expertise across multiple functional areas that were necessary for this system to come online. NMLC was NOSTRA’s immediate superior in command until recently, and is home based at Fort Detrick, MD. Its vision is to become DoD’s premier medical logistics support activity and its mission is to deliver readiness-centered logistics solutions for military medicine.
“It’s crucial to point out that the collaboration between NOSTRA, NMLC and DHA was essential to get to where we are today,” Herwitz explained. “The system was purchased by NMLC for the DoD optical labs before DHA took over as the provider of shared services.”
DHA was mandated by the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 702), to assume responsibility for the administration and management of healthcare delivery at all military treatment facilities effective Oct. 1, 2018. The act specifies the budget and expenditures of the DoD.
Those expenditures came with painstaking and methodical evolutions to bring DOFEMS to life. “The initial progress toward Risk Management Framework (DoD Network Authority) was extremely slow and arduous. In our quest to resolve a mountain of very difficult and challenging problems, the only support we received were references to websites on the process,” said Michael Vitantonio, the DOFEMS Project Manager.
“Our command had no experienced cyber expertise and our vendor had won its first government contract. Ours! We were forced to label our local network IT employees as Information System Security Manager and Information System Security Officer and start an extremely complicated process on our own, he said.”
Vitantonio also described that while roles and responsibilities were not well defined, they faced challenges in achieving milestones. “This went on for almost 3 ½ years. We made progress throughout this time but we never could quite put it all together,” Vitantonio said.
Finally, NMLC provided an experienced cyber expert,” Vitantonio said. “When Walter Sandman from NMLC’s Medical Logistics and Equipment Solutions directorate was assigned as our lead Information System Security Manager, that was when the ball began moving. His direct interaction pushed DOFEMS across the finish line and he was responsible for the system receiving a Conditional Authority to Operate on DoD Networks, paving the way for system deployment.”
A joint collaborator that also helped in keeping the ball rolling, DHA was indoctrinated into the DOFEMS process, resolving several issues NOSTRA faced in bringing the system to fruition. The Spectacle Request and Transmission System (SRTS) collaboration ensured that data needed in the fabrication of combat and other military eyewear would flow from more than 600 ordering activities to Navy optical labs.
The SRTS, the sole electronic system for ordering and tracking eyewear in DoD, transitioned from a decentralized desk-top client to a centralized web-based application easing maintenance efforts by eliminating the need for client software to be hosted and managed locally. This enhanced tool expedites the entire optical fabrication ordering and transmittal process, increasing the speed of order completion and minimizing delivery time to the patient. SRTS supports DoD active duty and retired personnel as well as other Federal agencies including the National Guard, Reserve, Coast Guard, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Reserve Officer Training Corps, and various humanitarian missions by increasing enterprise visibility of combat medical readiness and force health protection reporting for the Armed Forces.
Raquel Derouen, DHA Solution Delivery Division Information Technology Project Manager, explained how the two systems interfaced.
“SRTS is an automated web-based application that allows for the ordering and tracking of eyewear. Because of its interface with DOFEMS, it add efficiency, quality, aids in costs savings and promotes vision readiness and eye safety,” she said. “The capability also includes a data warehouse that allows for real-time data analysis for the purpose of tracking workload, workflow distribution, process improvement, inventory control levels and cost analysis.”
Representing the entire DHA Solution Delivery Division SRTS Team, Derouen further explained that a web service facilitates the communication between SRTS and DOFEMS. Interfacing with the DOFEMS capability via this web service replaces the legacy flat file system with a direct system-to-system interface. This interface allows orders to be sent from the SRTS application directly to the Navy labs that require the Lab Management System. In addition, SRTS is able to retrieve an updated status so that users can receive the status of their orders at any given time.
“It’s important to remember that this collaboration ensures better connectivity between ordering activities and the optical labs where the eyewear is fabricated,” Herwitz said.
According to Derouen, the integration required substantial developer and system administrator interaction to complete the development and integration between SRTS and DOFEMS. In addition, a lot of coordination and communication amongst multiple external entities was required in an effort to meet needed specifications such as hardware requirements and communication protocols, such as certificates and, other protocol management connections.
The establishment of this interface eliminates multiple points of failure, reduces the number of steps it takes to get an order status back, and in addition, increases the amount of status information received.
The bottom line is this enormous undertaking would not have been possible without the help of joint partners throughout the government. Herwitz explained it best. “What would seem like a relatively simple and straight forward process, was anything but that. It was a very complicated, labor and resource intensive process that took years to complete,” he said.
Because of DOFEMS, warfighters are essentially placed at the head of the line when it comes to receiving their eyewear. Not only are they no longer waiting in line, military medicine readiness takes a giant leap forward with this revolutionary and innovative electronic, full-scale ordering and management system.
Story by Julius Evans
Naval Medical Logistics Command