Health doesn't just happen within the doors of the clinic

  • Published
  • By Col. Susan Jano
  • 9th Medical Group commander
I recently returned from the Military Health System Conference ( where much of the discussion centered on improving the health of our beneficiaries and how better health should reduce cost. We have spent much time and money on delivering healthcare, but those dollars have not translated into better health. People on average see their provider 3-5 times annually for 20 minutes. Those 60-100 minutes are just a fraction of the over 526,000 minutes in our lives each year.

The "white space" between appointments is where health happens. That "white space" can be divided into thirds- one third of the time we are at work, another third of the time we are with our friends and family and during the final third of our time, we are asleep. By looking at what influences our behavior at work and at home, each of us can make subtle changes that will improve our overall health.

Shifting the responsibility from the Medical Group to the individual requires "activated patients." Patients who are engaged, equipped and empowered to take charge of their health. Patients and providers both need to understand that is not a failure on the provider's part if the patient comes to the appointment with new information about a condition. There are thousands of conditions, hundreds of medical journals and websites and no one can expect a single provider to be up on the latest research for each and every one. We need to let patients help and encourage their participation.

There are many websites with false medical information, but there are also many reputable websites, like our TRICARE Online website ( It contains a link to the American Academy of Family Physicians-Family Doctor website ( This site has health information and an age-specific, bi-lingual symptom checker that uses algorithms to help you decide what to do to manage your symptoms.

From the TRICARE Online website you can login from home or get there directly from the Air Force Portal through the Fitness and Health section. You will then be able to make an appointment or click on the "Blue Button" to view or download your very own personal health data containing your lab results, allergy profile, medication profile and problem list. This is great way to be reminded of your latest cholesterol and lipid levels and a good way to check to make sure we have your allergy information correct.

Active Duty personnel can also check their own PIMR or complete their Post Deployment Health Assessments through the AF Portal ( -CAC card req'd.). Just look on the AF Portal's Featured Links section, open the Fitness and Health tab and click on Medical Readiness-Deployment Health. From there, you can click on My Individual Medical Readiness Status and see firsthand, what preventive health actions are due or overdue. Everything you need to be an activated patient is at your fingertips.

Health does not happen within the doors of the clinic, it happens in our homes and workplaces each and every day. By using these resources, you can get engaged and "activate" yourself and begin to take charge of your own health.