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61st MDG Scores ‘Excellent’ in AFIG Health Inspection

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- The 61st Medical Group (MDG) came through with high marks in all categories during its recent 2009 Air Force Inspector General's Health Services Inspection (HSI), earning the Group an overall rating of "Excellent" during the five-day visit by the inspection team, April 27 through May 1. 

The inspection is held every 36 months. The current inspection covered the period since the last inspection in May 2006. The purpose of the inspection is to "... assess the function and execution of Air Force Medical Service programs and processes at the local level in order to provide senior leadership with accurate data upon which to base policy decisions." The inspections serve to keep up the standards of both the medical clinics and the AFIG activities. 

The nine-member inspection team from the Air Force Inspection Agency at Kirtland AFB, N.M., works directly for the Secretary of the Air Force. The inspectors performed an in-depths evaluation of 109 elements in 14 areas. In all, the AFIG inspection team reviewed 1,053 criteria, earning the Medical Group a score of 91 percent. From the 14 key focus elements, or targeted areas, 11 elements were rated "Outstanding." These elements include: War Reserve Materiel Program Management; Bioenvironmental Engineering Readiness; Deployment Health Surveillance; Medical Readiness Training; Readiness Skills Verification Program; Flight Surgeon Operational Responsibilities; Management Processes to Support Personnel Reliability Program; Dental Management; Mental Health Consultation to Command; executive Management (Senior Leadership); and On-the-Job Training Program. 

"If you fail any one of these [focus elements] and scored 'outstanding' in everything else, that would cap your across-the-board score at 'Satisfactory,'' said Lt. Col. Wayne Peters, Medical Support Squadron commander and Medical Group administrator. The Med Group scored 96 percent on the key focus elements, third highest scored this year on focus elements. "Not bad," he said. "They [the inspectors] tell you coming in that 'Satisfactory' is the new 'Excellent' and we missed by one point from getting the no-kidding 'Outstanding.'" 

The Medical Group was simultaneously visited by the three-member inspection team from Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), a civilian accrediting agency. AAAHC inspects 4,000 ambulatory agencies world-wide, including all AF outpatient facilities checking for their compatibility with the civilian health care organizations. The results are still pending but a similar rating is anticipated. AAAHC's 18 chapter check list consisted of 875 standards by which the Medical Group was measured. 

The inspection was divided in three parts - pre-arrival review, document reviews, and intensive two-day interviews with the staff at all levels and patients. According to Colonel Peters, the availability of the internet now allows the inspection team to review various records such as the clinic's self-inspection program and the electronic medical records system before arriving on base. 

"They (the inspectors) have the ability to 'look in' [to the clinic's records] before they get here," he said. "That gives them a precursor of things and they can have a more targeted look once they get here." 

Once they arrived, the inspectors reviewed 45 boxes of day-to-day "working" documents which consisted appointment letters, various meeting minutes such as executive committee and medical readiness, and other files from the last inspection three years ago. 

A panel consisting of all 12-members from both military and civilian inspection teams then met with the Medical Group staff, other base commanders and first sergeants, and patients. The Medical Group staff was asked job-specific questions, not only subject-matter, but AF guidance questions, covering compliance and knowledge. 

"This took everybody ... from top to bottom," he said. "Anyone of us was vulnerable for questioning [from the inspection team] at any given moment." 

The three-year span of the inspection gave the inspectors a long-view of sustained performance. No last-minute "fix-ups" can cut the grade as the inspectors can easily detect any changes in the pattern of operation. 

"They can identify through the document reviews and the interviews, the ebb and flow of the organization," said Colonel Peters. "To us, this proves to validate our 2008 AFSG's Best Clinic in Space Command last year." 

Colonel Peters said they did nothing special to prepare for the high-scoring inspection. The quality comes from continuous effort of communication, teamwork, and great leadership. 

"We as an executive staff do our self-inspection and monitoring. We cut our folks loose and let them do what they do every day," he said. "As Ronald Reagan said, 'trust, but verify,' and follow up." 

He attributes the Medical Group's accomplishment to the superb leadership of Col. Brian Deckert, 61st MDG commander, whose guidance motivates the Med Group to continue to excel. 

"This is a validation of his leadership, because he was actually gone on an emergency leave while we were having this inspection," said Colonel Peters. "That's a testament to his leadership that in his absence we kept on going from top to bottom." 

In his e-mail to Medical Group personnel, Colonel Deckert thanked everyone for a "fabulous job on the inspection" and a "stellar" performance. "In 12 HSIs, a 91 is the best score I've ever been a part of," he said. "I am even more proud of the fact that you did this in my absence, which points to our excellent team synergy." 

As for his medical personnel, Colonel Peters said he's proud of each and every one of them. 

"These five days validate what they do the other 360 days of the year," he said. "I know it, but now there's a third party who's come in and they know it. Couldn't be prouder of them." 

The Med Group is no stranger to receiving such high standards. In addition to the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) 2008 Clinic of the Year, the Medical Group received 19 other individual and team awards from AFSPC last fiscal year, and winning two awards at the Air Force-wide level by two 61st Medical Group personnel. 

"We set the standards, we met our expectations, and we're proud of it," said Colonel Peters.