Introduction: A Top-Level Look at the Future of Federal Medicine

By Chester “Trip” Buckenmaier III, MD, COL, MC, USA

Chester ‘Trip’ Buckenmaier III, MD, COL, MC, USA.

Looking back on 2012, I do not think anyone could make an argument that the year was dull. We are well into our 11th year of war. As a country, we completed one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent memory, and to our credit and the world’s amazement, did it bloodlessly.

Superstorm Sandy, likely the most expensive hurricane on record, slammed into the East Coast, raising the specter of global warming and its geopolitical consequences in the public psyche. And the “fiscal cliff” continues to cast long shadows on federal medicine as a still divided partisan Congress struggles to agree plans to avert, if you believe the political pundits, financial Armageddon.

During these turbulent times, a clear understanding of the direction leadership is steering the organization is essential for every federal medicine provider as we travel into the financial fog that is the federal budget in 2013. As in years past, U.S. Medicine’s Outlook excels in providing our community a first look into the issues and concerns that will be informing our leader’s decisions in the coming year.

Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Travis, Air Force Surgeon General; Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Army Surgeon General; and Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, Navy Surgeon General, each provided a synopsis of their service priorities in 2013. Interestingly, all three commented on the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles within our patient population, beyond and in addition to providing world-class healthcare, as a means of controlling costs in the present budget constrained environment.

This focus on the importance of a healthy lifestyle is reinforced by Jonathan Woodson, MD, assistant secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and director of TRICARE Management Activity who notes that disease “prevention is a key to success, and health is more significantly impacted by lifestyle than anything a medical professional does for a patient during an annual physical.” This re-emphasis on disease prevention is, from my perspective, long overdue and will allow federal medicine to provide both an example and leadership to the country as the nation struggles with exploding healthcare costs.

Robert A. Petzel, MD, under secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, focuses on the impact telehealth is having on the VA, with more than 200,000 telehealth visits servicing 80,000 veterans last year.

Yvette Roubideaux, MD, director, Indian Health Service, outlines the progress in improving the IHS in response to expanding need for services. Federal medicine’s commitment to the IHS is demonstrated by a remarkable increase in the IHS budget by 29% since 2008.

Rear Adm. Scott F. Giberson, RPh, MPh, assistant Surgeon General and chief pharmacy officer, U.S. Public Health Service, and VA pharmacists Anthony P. Morreale, PharmD, MBA, BCPS; Heather Ourth, PharmD, BCPS, CGP; and Julie A. Groppi, PharmD, CDE, provide insight into the importance of pharmacy services in the medical-team model to support the increasingly complex medication therapeutics used in treating patients today.

U.S. Medicine and Outlook are your sources for the latest information and innovation in federal medicine. Our team will continue to strive to provide providers timely articles on topics that will impact federal medicine in the coming year. As always, we welcome and encourage your comments to guide our decisions on content that you, the reader, would like to see. Thank you for your continued participation and interest in U.S. Medicine in the coming year.

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