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Improving Military Health and Efficiency through Telemedicine: The US DOD’s Objective

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has a long history of using telemedicine to provide healthcare to its service members, both at home and abroad. In recent years, the DoD has made significant investments in telemedicine, with the goal of improving the quality, access, and affordability of healthcare for its members.

 

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients without the need for an in-person visit. By moving information rather than patients and physicians, telemedicine promises to enhance healthcare while dismantling the barriers of where and when medical services are provided.

 

Telemedicine can be classified into three main categories. Remote patient monitoring or telemonitoring, allows patients with chronic diseases to be monitored in their homes using mobile medical devices that collect data about blood sugar levels, blood pressure or other vital signs. The store-and-forward allows providers to share patient information, such as lab results, with a physician at another location and interactive telemedicine. Interactive telemedicine allows physicians and patients to communicate in real time.

 

Telemedicine is also of great utility to military especially to the soldiers who are fighting in remote locations where the proper health care facilities are lacking. DOD Telemedicine objectives are as follows: keep active duty forces on the Job; enhance and measure health of the force; reduce forward deployed medical footprint; modify military health system staffing model to reduce size and skill mix for support of military operations; and to increase efficiency of military health system.

 

This process has been instrumental in helping doctors and nurses spot diseases and conditions in active-duty soldiers that may otherwise have gone unnoticed for some time. Soldiers can communicate directly with healthcare providers thanks to video conferencing technology, which can be useful for performing diagnostic interviews and treatment follow-ups.

 

What’s more, it’s possible to send critical diagnostic data across the continents via the Web. Now, patients can share EKG results, photos of rashes or legions, and a wide array of initial diagnostic assessments with their care providers back home. And of course, in the event of acute trauma, additional doctors stateside can be called on to consult directly with patients to help better determine the course of action that should be taken.

 

The myriad ways telemedicine can help the military are growing, both in demand and capability. Therefore, military is pushing for greater telemedicine capability at its disposal, not just to aid active duty soldiers, but to make life easier for returning veterans as well.

For in-depth understanding on  Telemedicine  technology and applications please visit: Telemedicine: Advancements and Challenges in Remote Healthcare Delivery

Virtual Health Program (VHP)

The Military Health System (MHS) is currently in the process of consolidating its many telehealth and telemedicine programs onto one enterprise platform, called the Virtual Health Program (VHP). The VHP will be a cloud-based platform that will allow MHS providers to provide care to patients at any time, from any location.

The VHP is still in the early stages of development, but the MHS has already released a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit proposals from vendors who can help build the platform. The RFI outlines the MHS’s requirements for the VHP, including the ability to support a wide range of clinical services, the ability to integrate with existing MHS systems, and the ability to meet the security and privacy requirements of the DoD.

The MHS expects to award a contract for the VHP in early 2023. Once the VHP is up and running, it is expected to have a significant impact on the MHS by improving access to care, reducing costs, and improving the quality of care.

The VHP is a key part of the MHS’s efforts to modernize its healthcare delivery system. By consolidating its telehealth and telemedicine programs onto one platform, the MHS will be able to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and affordability of its healthcare services.

Here are some of the benefits of the VHP:

  • Improved access to care: The VHP will allow MHS providers to provide care to patients at any time, from any location. This will be especially beneficial for patients who live in remote areas or who have difficulty traveling to see a provider.
  • Reduced costs: The VHP will help to reduce the cost of healthcare by reducing the need for travel, lodging, and other expenses associated with traditional healthcare delivery.
  • Improved quality of care: The VHP will help to improve the quality of care by providing patients with access to specialists who may not be available at their local MTF. The VHP will also allow providers to collaborate with each other more easily, which can lead to better decision-making and improved outcomes for patients.

 

Virtual health is a valuable component of the MHS in and around Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs), referred to as garrison, as well as when the military deploys to theater arenas across the globe,” the agency said in its Request For Information (RFI). “Expanding the use of VH improves patient access to care; improves efficiencies by minimizing treatment delays and expediting referral processes, particularly for psychological health and field care; facilitates continuity of care with patient-centered medical homes; minimizes the number of specialists required to be staffed at individual facilities to support primary care providers, reducing reliance on expensive brick-and-mortar facilities; and directly engages tech-savvy young adults who comprise the majority of our beneficiaries.”

 

The VHP is a significant investment for the MHS, but it is one that is expected to pay off in the long run. By improving access to care, reducing costs, and improving the quality of care, the VHP will help to ensure that the MHS can provide the best possible healthcare to its patients.

 

US Army soldiers test newest MEDHUB transport telemedicine technology

The United States Army is testing a new telemedicine technology called MEDHUB, which is designed to improve patient triage and communication during medical evacuations. MEDHUB uses wearable sensors, accelerometers, and other technology to collect and transmit patient data to receiving field hospitals. This data can include vital signs, medications, and injuries. The system is designed to give receiving medical teams more information so they can better prepare for incoming patients by gathering the necessary staff and supplies.

MEDHUB is still in the testing phase, but it has the potential to be a game-changer for military medicine. The system could help to save lives by providing receiving medical teams with the information they need to quickly and effectively treat patients. MEDHUB could also help to reduce the time it takes to evacuate patients from the battlefield, which could also save lives.

 

U.S. Navy and GlobalMed: Exciting Telemedicine Firsts at Sea

In recent years, the US Navy has been exploring the use of telemedicine to enhance the delivery of healthcare services to its personnel. One notable development in this area has been the Navy’s partnership with GlobalMed, an international provider of telehealth solutions. Together, they have achieved some exciting telemedicine firsts at sea, demonstrating the potential for telemedicine to transform the delivery of medical care in the military.

In March of 2021, the Navy conducted its first-ever underway portable telemedicine broadcast using GlobalMed solutions. The broadcast involved transmitting vital signs, ENT (ear, nose, and throat), and head and neck skin examinations from the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), a Navy hospital ship, to remote healthcare providers. This groundbreaking development has the potential to revolutionize the way in which medical care is delivered on Navy vessels, particularly those operating in remote or isolated areas.

In addition to the telemedicine broadcast, the Navy also used GlobalMed technology to perform its first-ever underway teleprocedural mentorship (TCCC) in March. This involved the use of GlobalMed’s clinical video tools to perform tourniquet placement, needle thoracostomy, and cricothyroidotomy on a patient located aboard the USNS Mercy. The procedure was supervised remotely by a physician who provided guidance and feedback in real-time. This development represents a significant advance in the delivery of medical care on Navy vessels, particularly in situations where access to medical specialists may be limited.

GlobalMed has also been making strides in the telemedicine field. The company recently earned the US Department of Defense Authority to Operate (ATO) on DoD networks, becoming the first provider of HIPAA-compliant clinical video tools to obtain this certification. This enables GlobalMed to put its virtual health applications, hardware, and software directly on the DoD network, making its solutions available to the Military Health System, the integrated healthcare system of the DOD.

The Navy’s partnership with GlobalMed and the recent telemedicine firsts achieved at sea demonstrate the potential for telemedicine to improve the delivery of medical care in the military. By expanding access to medical care and enabling remote consultations and procedures, telemedicine has the potential to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the military health system, ultimately improving health outcomes for military personnel and their families. With continued investment in telemedicine technology, the Navy and other branches of the military are poised to continue making significant strides in this field, improving the delivery of healthcare to those who serve.

 

Recent programs

One of the DoD’s most recent telemedicine initiatives is the Telehealth Service Modernization (TSM) program. TSM is a five-year, $1.5 billion program that aims to modernize the DoD’s telemedicine infrastructure and capabilities. The program will focus on developing new and innovative telemedicine technologies, expanding access to telemedicine services, and improving the quality of care provided through telemedicine.

Another recent DoD telemedicine initiative is the Military Health System Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (MHS TATRC). MHS TATRC is a research and development organization that is focused on developing new technologies to improve the delivery of healthcare to the military. MHS TATRC has a number of ongoing telemedicine research projects, including the development of new telemedicine devices, the use of telemedicine to improve the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases, and the use of telemedicine to provide mental health care to service members.

The DoD’s telemedicine initiatives are having a significant impact on the delivery of healthcare to its service members. Telemedicine is helping to improve access to care, reduce wait times, and improve the quality of care. Telemedicine is also helping to save the DoD money. A study by the DoD found that telemedicine saved the DoD $1.2 billion in 2016.

The DoD’s telemedicine initiatives are just one example of how the DoD is using technology to improve the delivery of healthcare to its service members. The DoD is also investing in other technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics, to improve the quality, access, and affordability of healthcare for its members.

 

Impact

Telemedicine involves using electronic communication and information technologies to provide clinical health care services and education from a distance. The DOD’s telemedicine program is designed to expand access to medical care for military personnel and their families, particularly those who are stationed in remote or isolated areas. This is achieved through a range of telemedicine services, including video consultations, remote monitoring of chronic conditions, and online health education resources.

One of the key benefits of telemedicine is that it enables timely and high-quality healthcare to be provided to service members and their families, regardless of their location. For example, telemedicine can be used to provide consultations with specialists who may not be available locally, or to enable remote monitoring of chronic conditions, reducing the need for frequent in-person visits.

Telemedicine can also help to improve health outcomes for military personnel by enabling more effective management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. This is achieved through remote monitoring, which allows healthcare providers to track patients’ vital signs and adjust their treatment plans as needed. Telemedicine can also help to reduce the risk of complications and hospitalizations, leading to better health outcomes and improved quality of life for service members and their families.

Another benefit of telemedicine is that it can help to enhance the efficiency of the military health system. By reducing the need for in-person visits and streamlining administrative processes, telemedicine can help to reduce costs and improve the overall efficiency of the military health system. This can ultimately free up resources and enable healthcare providers to focus on providing high-quality care to their patients.

During combat, telemedicine will provide battlespace awareness of the health status of individual warfighters and units, allowing line and medical commanders to proactively monitor, measure, predict, and manage the health of the force using real-time physiological sensors, large-scale distributed medical databases, computerized patient records, and medical situational awareness. Real-time knowledge of the physiological status of U.S. forces will add a new dimension to situational awareness, enabling commanders to predict individual warfighter and unit effectiveness, optimize utilization of forces, minimize casualties, and rapidly identify casualties when they occur.

 

When illness and combat trauma strike, telemedicine will enable commanders to improve the effective employment of medical forces. It will provide new capabilities for predictive diagnostics, digital image acquisition devices, 3D image processing, clinically focused teleconsulation systems, and better informed, less invasive surgical treatment that improve clinical outcomes.

 

In addition to the benefits listed above, telemedicine can also help to improve the health of the force by:

  • Identifying and addressing health problems early, before they become more serious.
  • Providing preventive care, such as vaccinations and screenings.
  • Managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.
  • Providing mental health care.
  • Providing rehabilitation services.

 

Telemedicine is not however, the panacea for either military health care or combat medical support. Wilder claims by its advocates have suggested that helmet cameras and two-way communications linked back to a field hospital from first responders would substantially reduce combat fatalities. In reality only 5 percent of battlefield mortalities are salvageable, in general those from bleeding and chest wound categories.

 

Telemedicine comes with significant costs. Consider that medics must be equipped with video and information conferencing devices and that every field hospital would have to be equipped with some form of server and input/output technology to assist the first providers and the cost becomes staggering. With current information technologies advancing every months, upgrading equipment will also be financially challenging. Significant additional expenditures will be needed to implement telemedicine initiatives.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the DOD’s telemedicine program is an important initiative that has the potential to significantly improve the health and well-being of military personnel and their families, while also enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the military health system. By providing remote access to medical care and enabling more effective management of chronic conditions, telemedicine can help to improve health outcomes and quality of life for service members and their families. Furthermore, by reducing costs and streamlining administrative processes, telemedicine can help to enhance the efficiency of the military health system, ultimately enabling the DOD to better fulfill its critical mission.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

http://www.amdtelemedicine.com/blog/article/telemedicine-huge-ally-military-clinics

https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/the-pentagon-issues-a-call-for-an-enterprise-telemedicine-platform

https://www.globalmed.com/u-s-navy-globalmed-exciting-telemedicine-firsts-sea/

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a404437.pdf

About Rajesh Uppal

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