Private and military medical technology have overlapped throughout history. Military treatment of battle injuries and trauma have influenced private medical treatment of gunshot wounds and major trauma. But the interaction has been a two-way street. Advances in private medical technology have also improved military health care, and continues to do so.
The foremost way that private medical technology improves military health care is through evolving standards of care. Although military medical facilities have different rules and in some cases the standards are different, military healthcare practitioners are trained in many of the same school as their private practice counterparts. As medical advances are made in any given field, whether that be family care, dermatology, or preventive medicine, those advances permeate the entire medical field and advance the cause of military medicine as much as any other.
A second way that advances in private medical technology improve military healthcare is through the development of information management technology by private sector hospitals and insurers. The military standard for management of medical information has been the color coded medical and dental files that all military personnel and dependents have carried from one duty station to the next. At one time, this low tech method of managing information was the best that could be found. There was no comparable civilian counterpart, and a patient who was treated five years ago at one hospital was assured that personnel at a new hospital would have no access to that information. But the civilian health field leapt ahead of the military with the information revolution of the past several decades. Hospital chains and insurers were the first to recognize the benefits of linking all their records into electronic formats and mining the data not only for the good of the individual patients, but for the health care system as a whole. The military has benefitted from this revolution in health information management with the advent of electronic health records to supplement the standard military medical record folder.
From the perspective of the military patient, the most concrete and visible reminder of the way that private medical technology has advances military healthcare comes with military referrals to local specialists for treatment. Military members and dependents are eligible for free referral to specialists when the military practitioners are in need of specialized assistance in treating a particular condition. Referral to civilian practitioners who are often at the forefront of the specialties gives military members and dependents access to the very best and cutting edge treatment options, at no additional cost to the member.
The line between military and civilian medicine has never been inviolate. Advances in military specialties such as trauma surgery, medical evacuation, and epidemiology have benefitted civilian medicine, and advances in private medical technology benefit military healthcare as well. Together, both sides benefit from the different approaches and priorities they bring to the health care system as a whole.