April 26, 2018
Total force readiness – moving beyond compliance and seeking digital disruption
By: Christopher David

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and continuing to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the advancement of military health and readiness.

The concept of “Readiness” permeates all aspects of the Department of Defense (DoD) and is anchored by an expansive operating culture that is both art and science. The DoD commits tremendous resources and energy to quantifying, modelling, and managing the readiness of military capabilities to deter and defeat global security challenges that are known and unknown.

Since placing my combat boots in a heavy Tough Box on a top shelf in my garage three years ago, I have been redefining my purpose and currently am at the intersection of mission and innovation. That is, I am committed to helping military medicine find integrated, value-added, and sustainable solutions to hard problems.

Fortunately, I work with incredible people in a very diverse and powerful 440,000-person company that influences the way the world works across many industries. Every day, I'm amazed at the magnitude of innovation occurring across businesses, governments, academia, and the global economy at large.

While I enjoy learning about new and emerging technologies, I get excited seeing the impact of technology as it redefines value, overhauls business models, creates new ecosystems, enables influential mergers and acquisitions, and impacts consumer expectations. Disruptive organizations such as Uber, ZocDoc, and Disney are leveraging digital strategies to redefine their marketplace and how they interact with customers and stakeholders.

I find this act of disrupting the landscape energizing and extremely relevant to military health readiness. Recognizing the competing demands on today’s military men and women, as well as the challenges associated with maintaining a Medically Ready Force, I want to use my energy to help develop digital capabilities to create a more comprehensive, integrated, and engaging Servicemember readiness model.

Admittedly, my perspective is profoundly Army-influenced, although I have supported the health- readiness needs of individuals from the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Army Reserves, as well as DoD civilians, and contractors. As such, I have witnessed first-hand the challenge and burden of navigating a myriad of disparate policies, technologies, and associated standards for each employee classification—all deploying to the same area of responsibility (AOR).

While I applaud the Herculean efforts involved in managing today’s Servicemember readiness, I envision a more complete and frictionless capability. I submit for your feedback the following attributes to help the MHS rapidly design and build a Total Force Individual Medical Readiness Application/Solution that:

  • Supports the total force (all services and components: Active, Guard, and Reserve); is compatible with the DoD’s personnel, training and MHS GENESIS; and feeds the DoD’s Readiness Reporting System (DRRS).

  • Incorporates the unique requirements of an Area of Operation (AO), occupational specialty, Service, and an individual’s associated risk category.

  • Expands beyond contemporary compliance requirements and assembles a more holistic picture of an individuals’ readiness. This includes assembling information from existing programs such as Substance Abuse, Family Advocacy, Legal, Finance, Comprehensive Fitness Assessment Tools as well as incorporating health related data such as prescription medications that may impact military duty performance while driving vehicles, flying aircraft, and carrying a weapon. This information exists today in siloed databases placing the burden of connecting the information on frontline leaders and individuals.

  • Incorporates and learns from the Servicemember’s fingertips by accessing individual devices such as cell phones and wearables. Just last month my Father-in-law showed me his automobile insurance company’s cell phone application that monitors his speed and driving patterns to continuously assess his risk level and financially incentivize or penalize behavior. Harnessing the magnitude of information from our daily patterns and incorporating learning models, algorithms, and recommendations to deliver health readiness insight to individuals and leaders could disrupt the entire Servicemember lifecycle.

  • Incorporates important environmental and occupational data such as altitude, humidity, noise levels, and air quality.

  • Supports retrospective and longitudinal data needs to help capture and reduce the total cost of health-readiness while also providing real-time and actionable insight to improve performance.

  • Is backed by an agile framework to enable continuous improvements and top-of-the-line ease of use visualization techniques for consumption.

The individual (Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine) remains the DoD’s central platform and is the cornerstone of our National defense. The health and readiness of these individuals are interwoven and central to performance optimization. I believe it is time to deliver a Total Force Individual Medical Readiness capability that moves beyond compliance and redefines the concept of readiness. What additional attributes, capabilities, and principles do you view as critical to a future Total Force Health Readiness capability? How can DoD Leaders apply digital technology to disrupt Servicemember Health Readiness? Finally, what outcomes do you believe this can achieve?

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