The future of military health care is likely to see significant changes in the next decade.
The use of Virtual Health will help Army Medicine respond to the future operating environment, in which there may be a lack of air superiority, a wide range of health threats, and greater operational dispersion and transitions among small unit teams. VH will improve access to care for Soldiers and also provide physicians with easier access to specialists and patient health data.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Johnson will discuss what Army Medicine is doing to expand VH at the Warrior’s Corner at the upcoming Association of the United States Army annual convention this week.
In addition to supporting the evolving operating environment, The National Defense Authorization Act mandates expansion of VH services across the military health system to improve access, facilitate care, improve outcomes, and reduce costs. In response to NDAA requirements, Army Medicine is already implementing comprehensive VH expansion in garrison and developing VH in operational and deployed environments to enhance readiness.
One of the most innovative lessons learned over the past 14 years of conflict is the use of VH. Building on over 20 years of experience, Army VH currently offers clinical services across 18 time zones, in more than 30 countries and territories, and in over 30 clinical specialties across all regions and in deployed environments.
Certain specialties, such as radiology and dermatology, have been using asynchronous technologies to send and receive digital images to specialists with great success for two decades.
VH extends clinical expertise across all time zones to provide vital medical capability where it is needed at the right time and right place.
In operational settings, VH provides a lifeline to advanced medical capabilities for first responders offering prolonged field care when immediate medical evacuation is not possible.
VH can be used to support Soldiers across all roles of care, within medical battlefield operating systems, across unified land operations, and within all phases of military operations. VH enhances access to care, quality, readiness, and safety.
Army Medicine has already partnered across time-zones and provided on-demand subspecialty consultation (for example, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, and critical care) in support of deployed Special Operation Forces.
This capability demonstrates Army Medicine's potential to leverage its resources in support of deployed forces in the most austere locations.
Army Medicine is establishing the DoD’s first Virtual Medical Center with clinicians and staff that specialize in delivering health care remotely to patients wherever they are in the world, in both garrison and deployed settings, across all roles of care.
The Surgeon General of the Army, Lt. Gen. Nadja West, has already directed that the Virtual MEDCEN be established at Brooke Army Medical Center with Initial Operating Capability anticipated in January of 2018.
The Virtual MEDCEN will serve as the “air traffic control” to schedule and coordinate virtual visits across the VH enterprise, connecting providers with patients in remote locations.
The Virtual MEDCEN will use providers within BAMC and provider capacity from other locations to provide virtual care.
In garrison environments, Army Medicine has been conducting pilot studies to provide lessons learned that can be used in expansion efforts across the enterprise. For example, in July 2017, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Medical Command approved a Regional Health Command-Europe virtual visits pilot study that will incorporate six specialties to administer VH encounters to the patient's home.
Overall, Regional Health Commands are engaged in more than 50 pilots and programs to expand the use of VH for our beneficiaries.
Additionally, Army Medicine is rolling out VH cart technologies across the enterprise, enabling providers to diagnose and treat patients across distance using electronic peripherals transmitting real-time vital signs and images.
Dedicated VH Nurses will be hired as part of the program.
The potential for VH is extremely high. Army Medicine is implementing state-of-the-art innovations and sharing lessons learned with civilian leaders, the other Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. With our partners across the Military Health System, Army VH is supporting the establishment of enterprise solutions to support all Services. MHS initiatives planned for fiscal year 18 include expansion of an enterprise virtual video visits capability (interactive audio and video involving a primary or specialty care provider and a patient in their home or other secure location); a global tele-consultations portal that enables specialists to support other providers anywhere in the world; and remote health monitoring pilots for patients with chronic conditions.
Overall, Army Medicine is ensuring access to care for our Soldiers, matching the right provider with an ill or injured Soldier anytime and anyplace in the world.
By implementing VH innovations for deployed Soldiers in all environments and across the range of military operations, Army Medicine can save lives and support combat wounded at all key medical treatment and evacuation nodes on the modern battlefield. Army Medicine can also then bring those VH modalities back home to support our beneficiaries in garrison — and eventually feed innovation for programs in the civilian sector.
With its current expansion, Army Medicine can continue its long tradition of being a source of cutting edge innovations in VH for the world.