DHA looks to contract a ‘digital front door’ to modernize its health system

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A DHA spokesperson said the agency is looking to build “a new healthcare model that places the administrative aspects of healthcare in the background.”

The Defense Health Agency is seeking to transform its military health system — or MHS — and is looking for commercial solutions to help it create a new and improved model of care, according to a Thursday solicitation notice.

In its request, the Defense Innovation Unit — the Pentagon’s hub for speeding up the acquisition of commercial technologies for military use — warned that the MHS “cannot sustain the readiness of the medical force in the present operating model” and added that “a new model for delivering care and a technology-enabled framework for adapting and evolving is required.”

DHA said in a press release that the planned approach will focus on three primary areas, including: patient experience; provider supported technology in the health ecosystem; and data management support.

To modernize the MHS and make it more patient-centered, the solicitation notice said the desired commercial solution “is a ‘digital front door’ that successfully integrates with or replaces our current architecture, is data centric and platform agnostic and is capable of rapid adaptation.”

This includes the deployment of tools that enable servicemembers and their beneficiaries to self-schedule appointments, search for providers and use secure messaging to communicate with their clinicians. 

Additionally, the notice said DHA is looking to use technologies that “match or exceed what civilian health workers enjoy today” to create a system that also “removes administrative, cognitive and repetitive burdens from the workforce.”

“We’re building a new healthcare model that places the administrative aspects of healthcare in the background,” DHA spokesperson Peter Graves said in a statement to Nextgov/FCW. “This will enable us to center the care around our patients as it should be, and relieve the administrative burdens providers face that take time away from their patients.”

The solicitation comes after DOD released a memo in December 2023 that the department noted “requires that the MHS add capacity to reattract patients and beneficiaries, improve access to care in military hospitals and clinics and increase opportunities to sustain military clinical readiness for medical forces.”

Some servicemembers have expressed concern about the MHS and DHA’s apparent focus in recent years on downsizing or outsourcing aspects of care to the private sector. DOD’s memo, in part, stressed the need to stabilize MHS and focus on “increasing medical personnel delivering care at military hospitals and clinics to optimize capacity for beneficiaries and mission requirements.”