Late last year, the Defense Health Agency established a catch-all organization that will help govern a large swath of small medical markets as part of the transition of military hospitals from the services to the Pentagon.
The Small Market and Stand Alone Military Treatment Facility Organization (SSO) has the unique distinction of overseeing 17 small medical markets and 68 standalone facilities throughout the nation. That’s in comparison to one large geographic market. DHA’s biggest market has 35 facilities; SSO will have 140.
“We are in approximately 32 states across the country and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba,” SSO Director Air Force Maj. Gen. Shanna Woyak told Federal News Network. “We do have a nice mix, we have about 10 inpatient facilities out of that footprint, and the rest are all at various levels of outpatient treatment. Our office is located in San Antonio.”
Larger market areas give military hospitals the opportunity to share resources. The job of the SSO is to do the same thing on a nation-wide scale for hospitals that are not connected through a geographic link. SSO facilities service more than a quarter of all encounters within the Military Health System, according to DHA.
The agency hopes that SSO can help standardize care in the same way its doing in larger markets, even though the facilities vary in size and scope.
“Yes, there are a lot of moving parts. And yes, there are a lot of facilities, but really, when you can really define it, and here’s my inpatient facilities, my outpatient facilities, you really do understand their operational needs fairly quickly,” Woyack said. “The goal of this is that not only to be integrate, and consolidate, but the idea is also to standardize so that our providers, our soldiers, sailors and airmen, can go to any facility and operate in terms of health care delivery. But when you really look at it from that perspective of standardization, you can really digest what needs to get done and prioritize, especially what needs to get done first.”
Part of the reason Congress created DHA was to further consolidate and centralize the Military Health System so patients could get the same care wherever they went. Part of doing that is moving hospitals and clinics from military services to DHA.
Woyack said she has been working with facilities and DHA since June 2021 on developing relationships and setting expectations.
Some of the things they discussed include how to best upkeep infrastructure, what staffing issues each clinic has and how to match that with patient volume.
“There’s just a different process now in which to address the issue,” Woyack said. “Before you could have a facility and they would go directly to their service and then the Air Force would one way, the Army another and the Navy an even different way. Having this consolidation in, in all respects, makes it easier for the facilities to operate. We’ve been getting that feedback quite a bit from our directors, that it’s really more helpful that they’ve got one direction to go in which to address their needs. That has, in a lot of ways, simplified it for them at a local level, they know exactly where to go, where to address the issues, and then how to get the issues fixed.”
Woyack said DHA will have to wait and see what issues arise from bringing together so many facilities in many different geographic areas, however, she noted that those clinics now have a network on which to rely.
DHA’s next step is to transition treatment facilities overseas under its purview.