Military Medical Readiness and Patient Experience with Access to Care

Med J (Ft Sam Houst Tex). 2022 Jan-Mar;(Per 22-01/02/03):3-10.


OBJECTIVES: Introduction: Medical readiness is an integral component of total readiness and a prime indicator of an individual’s overall fitness to deploy. Promoting medical readiness is the prime directive for military medical departments; however, there are few studies evaluating specific factors of care delivery that will improve medical readiness. In this study, we evaluated one of the common patient perceptions that access to routine and specialty care will have a positive effect on military medical readiness. Surprisingly, there appeared to be a reverse relationship between a patient’s perception of access to care and the correlation to their medical readiness.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study uses the Joint Outpatient Experience Survey data of Army active duty soldiers (December 2017 through May 2018) to investigate the relationship between access to care and medical readiness. Medical readiness scores were examined a month before and a month after a medical encounter. Medical Readiness Categories (MRC) were collected from the Army Medical Operational Data System Mainframe. Respondents of the survey were matched to MRC data. Comparisons were made using chi-square tests and Wilcoxon rank-sum non-parametric tests to determine whether there were differences in readiness and patient experience ratings before and after the encounter. Logistic regressions were also conducted to predict the odds of non-readiness based on the type of health care visit.

RESULTS: Soldiers who were medically non-ready were more likely to be above age 35 years or have specialty care encounters. Results indicated those meeting all medical readiness requirements or having minor medical issues that could be resolved quickly, generally rated access to care slightly lower compared to those who were medically non-ready. Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSKIs) are the leading cause of medical non-readiness. As a result, this study explored access to care for MSKIs. Although there were no statistical differences in access ratings for those with MSKIs compared to those without MSKIs, there were statistically significant differences in self-reported health. Individuals with MSKIs tended to report poorer health status. Those with specialty care visits had 1.79 times significantly greater odds (p is less than .05) of being non-medically ready compared to those with primary care. For visits related to MSKI (e.g., physical medicine, orthopedic, or chiropractic etc.), those with an orthopedic or occupational therapy visit had 1.25 and 1.59 significantly greater odds (p is less than .05) of being considered not medically ready compared to all other MSKI related visits before the encounter. However, after the encounter, those with orthopedic care had significantly higher odds of improved readiness.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this study help contextualize who is considered medically non-ready as well as differences in access to care experiences for this group. The lowest scoring areas for improving access to care include ease of making appointment, time between scheduling an appointment and the visit, and being seen past the scheduled time. Given that musculoskeletal injuries tend to require long term specialized treatments such as physical and occupational therapy, findings from the logistic regressions suggest that access and adherence to such treatments, particularly for orthopedic care, are helpful in improving medical readiness.


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