Bringing more intelligent healthcare to the U.S. military
Consolidate, cut costs, and upgrade: Since being named Chief Information Officer(CIO) for the Department of Defense Military Health System(MHS) last September, David Bowen has been called to do all three at the same time.
The most daunting mission of the past year, Bowen says, has been preparing for the launch of the government’s new Defense Health Agency. For years, the Army, Navy, and Air Force administered medical and administrative processes separately; but in the late 2012, in an effort to cut costs and increase efficiency, Congress mandated that all three branches’ systems be combined into a single shared system. Managing such a transition, Bowen says, “has been less a technology challenge than a change-management challenge. Or, put another way, an exercise in anthropology.”
Simultaneous to planning this overhaul, Bowen has been fighting to improve the methods by which private-sector healthcare facilities that treat military patients share patient data with the MHS – and to significantly upgrade the information(IT) used by the MHS. For a long time, Bowen says, the military’s IT outpaced that of its commercial counterpoints. Today, though, the opposite is true. Because the military’s IT has taken the form of custom “homegrown systems”, up to 95 percent of the IT budget goes to maintenance, while less than 5 percent goes to technological enhancements. To help bring government systems up to speed, Bowen says, the MHS will soon be reaching out to the commercial market.
Working for the MHS, a network that serves more than 9.6 million active-duty and retired military and their families, Bowen says, has been “a nice way to cap off a healthcare IT career” in that the job brings to bear both his long experience as a private-sector healthcare information officer and his previous experience working with government bureaucracies as CIO at the Federal Aviation Administration.
“I just love it here”, he says. “Never before have I worked with such a uniformly high high-caliber group of people. Everybody’s just very focused on the mission: the care our military servicemen and women.”