BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) --
In February 2018, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein announced that Air Force squadrons would receive funding to be used for Airmen-led innovations that increase readiness, reduce cost, return time back to Airmen or enhance lethality of the force.
The Squadron Innovation Fund was designed to reduce resource barriers preventing ingenuity, according to Goldfein, and serve as seed money for squadron-level innovation initiatives.
In looking at ways to better serve Airmen, the 377th Medical Group at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, recently used their portion of the fund to expand access to health care for mission partners through the development of a mobile health clinic.
“We have a diverse population of mission partners that include five major commands spread across more than 50,000 acres of Kirtland Air Force Base,” said Maj. Christopher McLaughlin, 377th MDG chief of aerospace medicine. “All of those partners are welcome and encouraged to use the services that we provide at the 377th MDG.”
However, since the medical group is physically located off base, travel time could sometimes add up to two hours per visit, McLaughlin said, and the 377th MDG wanted a way to serve Airmen whose mission requirements make traveling off base during normal clinic hours difficult.
“Mission requirements, our off-base location and commute times of over 30 minutes can provide difficulties for our Airmen. So the mobile health clinic provides more than just individual medical readiness completion,” McLaughlin said. “Due to the nature and complexity of some operations and activities, a remote-site physical therapy clinic saved more than 3,700 hours in lost duty time. Similarly, the first mobile individual medical readiness clinic saved four hours per visit. By partnering with individual units and expanding health care delivery on base, the medical group saved Airmen's time while further enabling a ready and lethal force.”
McLaughlin added that the mobile health clinic is flexible and can offer many types of services, such as a cold and flu clinic or flu shots for all patient types. Additionally, plans are being worked to offer physical and mental health assessments for active duty; Competent Medical Authority for point-of-care fitness determinations at Personnel Reliability Assurance Program units; and a return-to-fly clinic, sick call and waiver clinic for aircrew.
Each Mobile Health Clinic is staffed to the needs of the service being provided. Many of the clinics will leverage a MHC trailer being purchased with the Innovation Fund money to expand capabilities even further.
“We have provided thousands of patient encounters with just one physical therapist or chiropractor,” McLaughlin said. “When providing individual medical readiness services, we have staffed the mobile clinic with three technicians for blood draws, one technician for immunizations and one provider for mental health assessments and physical health assessments.”
Col. Mary Stewart, 377th MDG commander, said she is extremely proud of her team and their passion for seeking innovative ways to deliver trusted medical care.
"General Goldfein expects our squadron leaders to take risks in the pursuit of new ideas and solutions. That's one of the reasons behind his Squadron Innovation Fund initiative," Stewart said. "The outreach to units across the installation from the men and women of the 377th MDG is so valued, that several 377th Air Base Wing squadrons have pooled their funds with our three medical squadrons to help purchase a Mobile Health Clinic trailer.”
McLaughlin said by encouraging Airmen to come up with innovative new ideas and providing funds to make those ideas a reality, the Air Force’s Squadron Innovation Fund allowed the 377th MDG to develop an innovative new way to care for Airmen.
“In three hours, five medics can provide care for hundreds of Airmen,” McLaughlin said. “That level of efficiency allows [Kirtland AFB Airmen] to spend more time completing mission requirements and ensures more rapid establishment of a fit and ready force.”