Mobile clinic provides on-site care
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Healthy and fit Airmen are key to ensuring high performance and sustainable mission readiness.
Physicians and specialty health care providers from the 35th Medical Group came together earlier this year to kick-start a new initiative coined Operator Centered Medical Home, which focuses on bringing medics directly to units to conduct needs assessments and provide on-the-spot medical advice.
"It's a collaboration between physical therapist and technicians, nurses, physicians from family practice, mental health and immunizations personnel," said Capt. Esther Williams, 35th Medical Operations Squadron officer in charge of mental health.
The "mobile clinic" has already completed site visits with the 35th Security Forces, Aircraft Maintenance, Maintenance, and Civil Engineer Squadrons.
During the site visits, the medics interact with the Airmen and learn about their job to gain better understanding of day-to-day operations and stressors in the workplace. They conduct needs assessments for units and develop specialized plans to address medical concerns of that unit.
"The visits vary from one to two hours, to sometimes half a day," said Williams.
One of the first site visits was with members of the 35 SFS, where the medics attended guard mount, spoke with SFS leadership, and examined the unit's utilization of clinical services. Some medics even embedded with the unit and performed augmentee duty, experiencing the long hours associated with tasks and getting to know members of the unit.
"We discovered that security forces squadron members were at higher risk for knee, back and shoulder health concerns," said Williams. "Physical therapy, family practice, and mental health providers went out to the unit to conduct functional movement screenings, and provided custom training plans for the members."
Functional movement screenings consisted of trunk and core stability, upper and lower extremity flexibility and strength, and overall balance of the body, explained Staff Sgt. Kenneth Rivera, 35th MDOS physical therapy craftsman.
"Each individual tested was provided a home exercise program designed to improve the areas of deficit found in their screen," said Rivera. "For example, if a member scored poorly on hurdle step they were provided stretches to improve hip flexion and extension flexibility."
Rivera added that also provided on-the-spot evaluations and treatment for maintenance personnel.
At the 35 MXS, medics discovered that when a maintainer has a medical appointment, it effectively removes them from the work center for an average of two-three hours with a direct loss of productivity, Williams explained.
"This resulted in maintainers putting off their own medical care, frequently waiting until their condition became more serious before seeking help," said Williams.
Dedicating one family practice provider to care for all members of one unit was also part of the OCMH. This not only improved unit trust, but allowed members to receive on-the-spot tips to better their psychological health by mental health providers, said Williams.
"For one member who endorsed its effectiveness, stress management skills were applied in the work setting with a focus on self-management of anxiety--all without the need to visit the Mental Health clinic," said Williams. "Interventions such as these reduce the stigma associated with mental health and legitimize the services provided."
In the maintenance squadrons, mental health stigma is reducing and Airmen who may never have come to Mental Health were able to get personalized psychological first-aid, added Williams.
"This has also helped to open lines of communication between the squadrons and the medical group," said Williams. "Leadership feels more comfortable asking for guidance on medical concerns."
The 35 MDG is evolving along with the healthcare needs of its Airmen, said Williams, and it is proving to have a positive impact on both the medics as well as the Airmen they serve.
"While this delivery of medical care is a little out-of-the norm for the medics at the 35th Medical Group, they continue to be innovative and flexible so the Airmen they serve can continue focusing on the mission," said Williams.