Original article posted on Federal Times.
When it comes to our military, readiness serves as a risk mitigation within mission operations. Our experience shows us, “When readiness suffers, the risks to forces increase.”
Every branch of the military knows this, but personnel and operational readiness remain a struggle. The Government Accountability Office reported in late 2020 that the U.S. Department of Defense “needs to rebuild the readiness of the U.S. military and modernize its systems and equipment to address future threats.”
Readiness, of course, also includes the preparedness of our servicemen and servicewomen for deployment. Rapid or unexpected deployment presents challenges, such as ensuring that every service member has access to appropriate military health information. Without timely and accurate health and wellness information, both readiness and mission can suffer.
Accessible health information was a particular issue for servicewomen because of the male-centric aim of most information and the unique needs that women face before deployment, which resulted in reduced readiness and lost duty days.
To get ahead of the issue and assemble information in an easy-to-access manner, the Defense Health Agency made the best use of technology in accordance with DoD’s digital transformation objectives.
The Defense Health Agency partnered with Maximus and BlueWater to design and develop the Deployment Readiness Education for Servicewomen (DRES) web application. DHA leaders understood that servicewomen were not getting the information or help they needed in a timely manner, and it had to be addressed. Providing interactive functionality with information curated with the needs of servicewomen, the progressive web application provides a blueprint for how the military can leverage emerging technologies and app development to vastly improve readiness across branches of service.
The app focuses on three phases of deployment: preparation, activities during deployment, and afterward. For example, the “during deployment” phase includes information on mental health, nutrition, staying connected, and how to report any negative health situations. Similarly, the after-deployment phase provides information on self and family reintegration, family planning, and mental health resources.
By making this information more readily available to servicewomen, the app overcomes a gap in accessibility because data was previously in disparate locations and difficult to navigate. With the DRES app, the single location and installable version of the information provide servicewomen easy access the information even during deployment in areas of low or no connectivity.
The positive response to the DRES app – it’s quickly becoming the most-viewed application on the Defense Health Agency app store – shows how it offers a blueprint for other segments of DoD personnel. Since the app went live in 2022, it has supported roughly 75,000 actively deployed servicewomen and significantly reduced the number of lost duty days. The feedback from servicewomen has been nothing but positive, with many sharing that they are appreciative of being made a priority.
DRES embodies modern application development processes that starts with understanding of the core problem and how to present a solid user experience. This includes:
- A dedicated team, including servicewomen, who were excited to contribute to the project
- Holistic, agile application development and governance processes, covering project management and quality assurance testing.
- A focus on the end user experience and the challenges for accessing general health information before, during and after deployment
- Understanding of the unique health needs servicewomen matched to the comprehensive knowledge of emerging technologies.
By making this information available in an easy-to-carry and easy-to-view format regardless of location, while still adhering to security and privacy requirements, the DRES app supports the agency in its mission of ensuring a medically ready military force across all commands.