Tricare Deputy Director Highlights New Programs

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2009 - Tricare is enhancing its programs and services as part of an ongoing commitment to provide quality health care for military families, the new deputy director of Tricare Management Activity said.

One of Tricare's key initiatives is to enhance the contact beneficiaries and their family members have with their primary health care provider, Navy Rear Adm. Christine S. Hunter told "DotMilDocs" listeners July 30 on Pentagon Web Radio.

"The 'medical home' concept is an exciting way of looking at an individual's relationship with their primary care provider," she said.

The medical home concept emphasizes four health care pillars: accessibility, continuity, coordination and comprehensiveness. Hunter said that it takes the doctor-patient relationship to a new level.

"It creates an enhanced relationship with that health care provider to ensure access, continuity and trust," Hunter said. "We need to offer care that is coordinated and comprehensive. In order to do that, we will emphasize preventive care and wellness, ensuring that people are in a partnership with their provider that allows them to get the preventive care that they need, and manage any chronic medical conditions that they have."

Hunter also addressed Tricare programs, and how beneficiaries can make the best use of their benefits by highlighting four main goals of the Tricare health plan: providing beneficiaries and their families with access to the best health care, ensuring satisfaction with their health care, managing health care costs responsibly, and last, but most important, she said, maintaining military readiness.

Part of military readiness, Hunter said, is maintaining family readiness. "We see family readiness as an important part of overall readiness. Secretary of the Navy [Ray] Mabus recently said 'they who wait also serve' and we have a strong commitment to them," Hunter said.

Tricare also is providing to its beneficiaries access to a Web-based Tricare Assistance Program that will provide online counseling.

The program launched Aug. 1, Hunter said, and is for active-duty servicemembers and their families, people in the Transitional Assistance Management Program, and selected reserve members who purchase Tricare Reserve Select and their eligible family members.

"The Tricare Assistance Program provides Web-based supportive counseling; you can dial in on your home webcam to talk to a counselor and get the assistance you need in the privacy and comfort of your own home," Hunter said.

The program enables visitors to obtain an unlimited number of sessions with the same counselor. "We think this will go a long way to making folks feel more comfortable and reducing stigma," she said.

Hunter also discussed electronic health records as a priority. One of the advantages of Tricare is the ability to keep track of the quality of health care beneficiaries receive through the use of electronic medical health records, she said.

She noted that Tricare is fully supportive of President Barack Obama's initiative to help manage health care in America through the use of electronic health records. These records provide long-term health information that can be used to predict trends.

"We think this really improves the quality of care because you don't have to waste valuable time during personal interactions repeating your past medical or family history," Hunter said.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the Emerging Media Directorate of Defense Media Activity.)

*Related Sites:*
"Dot Mil Docs" on Pentagon Web Radio [ ]
Tricare  [ ]
Tricare Deputy Director Highlights New Programs [ ]