Surgeon General's Corner: Navy Medicine’s Advancements in Medical Technology
By Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., Navy Surgeon General
Wherever I go people often ask me why I’m so focused and committed to research and development when we have an ongoing two front war and countless other priorities. It is because the medical technology breakthroughs that advance the quality of care we provide our Sailors and Marines and their families originate from the research development labs and schools. We must continue to support innovative medical technology-focused research so we keep pace or stay ahead of the technology curve.
Science and technology, research, and development are the bases from which most of our innovations come. We anticipate further technological advancements in all areas of medicine in the coming years.
This month I’d like to highlight some of those military medicine technological advancements that are having a direct impact on the quality, accessibility, and sustainability of care we provide our beneficiaries.
The first is advancements in electronic health records (EHR) which will leverage care and also the mobility of the military health system. A more advanced EHR that uses cutting edge information technology and security will help as men and women move in and out of combat zones or relocate so that a complete EHR will follow them regardless of location. The EHR will include immunizations, past medical history, current medications, and allergies to those medications to create a more efficient system in how we handle medical care, and the accuracy and quality of that care.
In partnership with the DoD’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, we are studying the potential benefits of a Telepharmacy Robotic Medication Dispensing Unit (TRMDU) for our returning service members who suffer from TBI or other post-traumatic stress. The medication delivery unit has two-way communication software that enables a health care professional to remotely manage prescriptions stored and released by the patient-operated delivery unit. Not only would this unit leverage and extend the clinical pharmacy capacity, it would maintain one electronic medication administration record in real time.
With care increasing at transitional housing, outpatient, and in-home settings, the TRMDU system is expected to give medical providers the ability to remotely deliver, adjust, and monitor a patient’s drug therapy from the battlefield, to a combat support hospital, to an outpatient center, and ultimately to a home setting.
Another cutting edge technology coming to fruition includes advancements in hand, extremity, and even face transplantation and also new breakthroughs in retinal and visual rehabilitation. There have also been electrical and physiologic advancements in helping to restore vision. For TBI care, we are using the virtual environment to challenge the brain through specialized video games and other computer-based programs that provide visual, spatial, language and coordination tasks.
Lastly, we are in the lead in developing a more agile next generation DNA vaccine technology against deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and scrub typhus as well bio-engineered weapons. This new generation of vaccines is expected to be safer, cheaper, more stable, easier to administer, with fewer side effects, and more effective against a wider variety of diseases.
All of these advancements in care started with an idea and translated into programs and initiatives to help better serve our wounded warriors, our deployed Sailors and Marines, and their families. You can be confident we will continue to focus on using technology to our advantage to maintain the highest quality across the continuum of care. It is my honor to represent you as your Surgeon General. Thank you for everything you do, but most of all thank you for your service.