Army telemedicine pilot addresses non-urgent ER cases

The Army has launched a six-month pilot program to use telehealth to treat non-urgent cases when patient go to the emergency room, reports DVIDS.

In the pilot, administered by Regional Health Command-Atlantic (Provisional), family medicine and primary care physicians from Eisenhower Army Medical Center (EAMC) at Fort Gordon, Georgia, will treat patients at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, via a secured video teleconference.

This initiative is aimed at patients who go to the emergency department after hours when they can't see their primary care physician. It also should free up emergency staff at Blanchfield to deal with more serious cases, according to spokesman Master Sgt. Jason Alexander.

It involves establishing a "Virtual Patient-Centered Medical Home" to redirect non-urgent-care patients to an area where they can be screened and evaluated by physicians working at the EAMC Telehealth Center 445 miles away.

"The 'left without being seen' rate should drop, our wait times should drop, and the quality of the encounter and our handoff back to primary care should improve as we integrate our systems," Alexander said.

The VA puts a heavy emphasis on the expansion of telehealth efforts in its proposed fiscal year 2017 budget. A pilot program in Mississippi that allows veterans to use their cell phones or tablets to receive care in their homes also aims to improve access to care.

Efforts such as these help to address the VA's wait time crisis, but also to provide better access to specialty care, as a teledermatology program through the Mann-Grandstaff Spokane Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., illustrated.

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