Wartime Lessons Inform Civilian Medicine


Recent wars have led to innovations in military trauma care that can be applied to civilians, say the authors of a JAMA Viewpoint published in June.1

Image Credit: Shuttershock.com

Image Credit: Shuttershock.com

During the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the percentage of wounded soldiers who died as a result of their injuries reached its lowest point in recorded history, writes lead author Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP, of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass., along with colleagues from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

“Effective bleeding-control measures, improved resuscitation techniques, and aggressive neurocritical care interventions are among many advances that saved lives on the battlefield that otherwise would have been lost,” they write.

The reduction in injury-related deaths is in part due to the Military Health System and its Joint Trauma System embracing a culture of continuous performance improvement and an agile approach, a model called “focused empiricism,” the authors say. A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine clarifies the components of such a learning health system, which can also be applied to civilian care:

  • Leadership and a culture of learning: “A learning health system must be stewarded by leadership committed to nurturing a culture of continuous learning and improvement. ... Such a system should unite military and civilian trauma care leaders around a common, core aim established at the highest level in the nation; namely, to achieve zero preventable deaths after injury and minimize trauma-related disability.”
  • Transparency and incentives for quality trauma care: “Trauma care practitioners at all levels, including trauma surgeons and other physicians, nurses, technicians, and prehospital care personnel, should have access to data on their performance relative to that of their peers.”
  • Systems for ensuring an expert trauma care workforce: “A joint, integrated network of military and civilian trauma centers should be created as a training platform to prepare and sustain an expert workforce and to promote the translation of best practices between sectors.”

The progress made by the military’s trauma system could be lost, the writers conclude, without concerted efforts to disseminate and maintain the advances. The authors note that in the United States, there are nearly 150,000 deaths from trauma each year, and injury is the third-leading cause of death.

The “hundreds of thousands of civilians who have sustained trauma deserve the benefits of care improvements achieved in military medicine,” they conclude.


  1. Berwick DM, Downey AS, Cornett EA. A national trauma care system to achieve zero preventable deaths after injury: recommendations from a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report [published online ahead of print June 17, 2006]. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.8524.

Quick Byte

Rating RTLS Options

The healthcare industry typically uses real-time location systems (RTLS) to help improve care quality, workflow efficiency, and bottom lines, according to a recent article in HealthcareITNews. The research firm KLAS rated 11 RTLS vendors and gave Centrak the highest overall performance score, beating competitors including AwarePoint, Cerner, GE Healthcare, and Intelligent Insights.


  1. Siwicki B. KLAS ranks real-time location systems from AwarePoint, Cerner, CenTrak, Versus and others. HealthcareITNews website. Accessed July 13, 2016.

Next Article:

   Comments ()