Navy medicine goes digital to improve satisfaction

Woman using smartphone
The Navy is testing smart device-powered telehealth as an alternative to urgent care.
C. Forrest Faison III
C. Forrest Faison III

Leaders in Navy medicine want to make care more convenient for soldiers and their families, improve patient experience and take advantage of technological innovations that better connect troops with physicians, says the United States Navy’s surgeon general, Vice Admiral C. Forrest Faison III, M.D.

For instance, the Navy is testing smart device-powered telehealth as an alternative to urgent care, Faison said in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune. 

Offering telehealth services cuts growing healthcare costs for naval medicine and makes it easier for stationed soldiers and their families to get access to primary care and specialists.

The advent of telehealth and mHealth is transforming the industry as a whole. It’s proven especially key in reaching underserved populations, including those in rural areas.

Faison and his team are also looking at ways to improve sailors' satisfaction that don't involve taxpayer-funded perks like valet parking. "Nice waterfalls and pavilions" aren't an indicator of better care, anyway, he said.

The Navy’s population skews younger than America overall—three-quarters were born after 1986—so he’s had to focus on the needs of millennials. These young sailors are digital natives, he said, who call for mobile access to care options and quick urgent-care clinics instead of traditional avenues, and many seek care off-base. 

The growth of the millennial generation is driving a number of trends in healthcare, including the push for more digital options and more efficient care. Millennials are a key force behind word-of-mouth marketing through online reviews and calls for more cost estimates upfront. Providers and payers have had to change the message and approach when courting millennials.

You can view an excerpt of the interview in the video below.