The response of the Military Health System (MHS) to the COVID-19 pandemic: a summary of findings from MHS reviews

Alysa Pomer*, Satish Munigala, Christian L. Coles, Jessica Pope Mitro, Andrew J. Schoenfeld, Joel S. Weissman, Tracey Perez Koehlmoos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused major disruptions to the US Military Health System (MHS). In this study, we evaluated the MHS response to the pandemic to understand the impact of the pandemic response in a large, national, integrated healthcare system providing care for ~ 9 million beneficiaries. Methods: We performed a narrative literature review of 16 internal Department of Defense (DoD) reports, including reviews mandated by the US Congress in response to the pandemic. We categorized the findings using the Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities, and Policy (DOTMLPF-P) framework developed by the DoD to assess system efficiency and effectiveness. Results: The majority of the findings were in the policy, organization, and personnel categories. Key findings showed that the MHS structure to address surge situations was beneficial during the pandemic response, and the rapid growth of telehealth created the potential impact for improved access to routine and specialized care. However, organizational transition contributed to miscommunication and uneven implementation of policies; disruptions affected clinical training, upskilling, and the supply chain; and staffing shortages contributed to burnout among healthcare workers. Conclusion: Given its highly integrated, vertical structure, the MHS was in a better position than many civilian healthcare networks to respond efficiently to the pandemic. However, similar to the US civilian sector, the MHS also experienced delays in care, staffing and materiel challenges, and a rapid switch to telehealth. Lessons regarding the importance of communication and preparation for future public health emergency responses are relevant to civilian healthcare systems responding to COVID-19 and other similar public health crises.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19 pandemic response
  • Military Health System
  • Military health
  • Military medicine


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