Much like the United States military branches, other areas of the Department of Defense are working to create programs and environments to promote innovation. Just prior to the 2019 global pandemic the Defense Health Agency was consolidated and established a team to focus on healthcare innovation, but this team was immediately redirected to work solely on pandemic related issues. Recently, they’ve switched back to focusing on their innovation related goals as originally planned.
Although they’re relatively new, their hope is to rebrand to be titled MedWERX and follow many of the processes and procedures established by AFWERX. Under MedWERX, they hope to offer resources similar to AFWERX as well as host healthcare related speaker symposiums and challenges. Many of these offerings are not yet available, but one of their goals includes having a healthcare innovation summit in the spring of 2023.
During this recent consolidation, all military hospitals were placed under DHA. Although the R&D element was not consolidated under DHA, it will be eventually. This consolidation allows DHA to sit in an overarching position in the military health enterprise instead of out of a single hospital.
The current DHA innovation office is composed of only a handful of people, so at this time they don’t have the bandwidth to work with phase one and two projects. They currently work with phase three projects by scaling operations and maintenance, gaining support from stakeholders and leadership, policy rewrites and networking. However, if DHA is presented with phase two prototypes that have significant substance, feasibility and address a large enterprise issue, they’re open to working with them under a STRAFI/TACFI. Given the right circumstance, they also have the potential and capability to facilitate the signing of memorandums of understanding by DHA leadership.
In their current proposal they’re hoping to be able to offer additional funding by FY23, but they currently only work via SBIR, STTR and a process similar to SIF for existing products to receive a small amount of funding for O&M. Although much of DHA’s focus is on innovation within active duty military hospitals and clinics, they’re open to working with National Guard and Reserve units so long as the technology is applicable in military hospital and clinic settings.