Health Innovation Month: Big Data, Big Impact for Navy Medicine

By Rear Adm. Elaine Wagner, director, Health Care Operations, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Navy Medicine has a rich history of innovation and ingenuity. From the Stokes wire-stretcher basket in the 19th Century, to SEALAB in the 60s.

July is Health Innovation Month, a time to highlight the technological innovations in military medicine that make Navy Medicine a global leader in research and development, clinical advances, and health care delivery.

Navy Medicine has a rich history of innovation and ingenuity. From the Stokes wire-stretcher basket in the 19th Century, to SEALAB in the 60s, or the current Modular Prosthetic Limb, health innovation is part of Navy Medicine’s DNA.

In April, 2015, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus unveiled Navy’s Task Force Innovation which identified five focus areas for innovation across the Department of Navy: comfort with risk and uncertainty; emphasize information sharing; agile decision-making; diversity of thought; and measure what matters. But innovation isn’t just for those participating on the Navy’s innovation team; it’s a call to action for every Sailor, including Navy Medicine, and it’s a call I feel personally.

I recently hosted a leadership event at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) focused on big data and its implications for Navy Medicine. This event was an opportunity to explore the implications of big data in today’s health care environment alongside industry experts.

During the event we explored how Naval Medical Center San Diego is already applying big data to patient modeling, to better understand the operational impact of complex information changes on care delivery, coordinated planning across facilities, and the identification and recapture of priority patients over a three-year time span.

SEA-LAB was responsible for developing a great deal of new diving technology including modern diving tables.

Organizations around the world are using big data to prevent conflicts, disasters and predictable disease. At Navy Medicine, we have the potential to utilize big data to ensure the readiness of Sailors and Marines and their families while continuing to provide high-quality, safe patient care at our facilities around the world. For example, new wearable technology like lightweight monitors would allow for real time mobile health surveillance. Readiness could be improved by tracking the fitness levels of sailors wearing these devices in basic training. Aggregating informal and formal online sources can alert us to real time disease outbreaks where our sailors are deployed.

As Secretary Mabus reminded us in April, “there have been more than two centuries of collaboration and experimentation among people in and out of uniform, in government and industry, redefining what is possible. In so many cases, we have taken seemingly impossible ideas and made them real.”

Whether it’s big data or just a big idea, take time now and in the future to experiment, imagine and create, so together we may continue to redefine the possibilities of Navy Medicine.