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Medical leaders build SAMHS framework

By Lt. Col. Alan Goodwin | San Antonio Military Health System Clinical Operations | Dec. 8, 2011

WILFORD HALL, Texas — With the government's need to reduce costs, gain efficiencies, and improve effectiveness, Base Realignment and Closure 2005 directed many changes around the world, with a deadline of Sept. 15, 2011 for implementation. One requirement resulted in the creation of the San Antonio Military Health System, or SAMHS (pronounced "SAM-H-S")

SAMHS provides oversight of all military health services within the San Antonio area. SAMHS includes over 9,000 healthcare workers in 10 facilities, supporting over 230,000 beneficiaries, and providing over 100 specialty services with over a $1 billion economic impact to the San Antonio community.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, 59th Medical Wing commander and SAMHS director, and Army Maj. Gen. M. Ted Wong, Brooke Army Medical Center commander and SAMHS deputy director, conducted the first SAMHS strategic planning conference in early October to build the framework for one military medical system in San Antonio. The system is not merging commands, but is developing processes to support consistent and single-focused healthcare delivery, while maintaining service unique readiness requirements, and support graduate health education training platforms and biomedical research.

During the conference, senior leaders from the executive committee and subject matter experts from within Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston and the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base identified areas for SAMHS focus. The conference attendees identified a need to establish several interservice committees with the goals of maximizing patient care as well as improving the patient experience, improving patient safety and access to care, and maximizing healthcare delivery effectiveness and efficiency across the entire healthcare system.

What does this mean for the patients?

"SAMHS is committed to being your first choice in healthcare, the place patients choose to go for all matters related to their health," said Hepburn. "We recognize that patients live all over the area and want access to safe, high quality care within a reasonable period of time without having to determine who to call and which clinic to visit."

The Centralized Appointment Management Office (CAMO) is now part of SAMHS. Patients still have one number, (210) 916-9900, to call the CAMO and make an appointment, or patients can still go on line to www.tricareonline.com and book an appointment.

"Patients will also notice the integration of healthcare provider teams," said Wong. "They may be treated by a team consisting of either Army, Air Force, civilian personnel or any combination thereof within the walls of the San Antonio Military Medical Center or Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center. This cross pollination of talents enables efficiencies and reduces redundancies between the facilities."

Among the decisions made at the conference was creating a unified SAMHS vision: To be the Department of Defense's premier healthcare system.

"As the DoD's premier healthcare system, our healthcare teams want patients to continue choosing SAMHS as their healthcare provider of choice," said Hepburn. "We look forward to serving all our beneficiaries' healthcare needs in an exceptional manner."