Army testing text reminders to wounded warriors, video messages to diabetics

The U.S. Army is ramping up its use of mobile technologies, including a secure, text-based service to send health suggestions, appointment reminders and other information to wounded warriors, an officer told a congressional panel last week.

The program, called mCare, is a bi-directional messaging system with a virtual private network at its hub to assure HIPAA compliance, Col. Ronald Poropatich, deputy director of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Fort Detrick, Md., said at a hearing of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs health subcommittee. TATRC initially is testing mCare on about 300 injured members of the National Guard or Army Reserve who have completed their inpatient care and are recuperating at home.

"Patients with mild traumatic brain injury are a target population for mCare," Poropatich said. "mCare is not intended to replace all face-to-face or telephone-based encounters from the [case management] team, rather it is designed to complement these efforts with additional means of communication," he explained.

The system delivered more than 18,500 messages in June, and each patient receives at least six messages per week, according to Poropatich. Nearly two-thirds of messages are for appointment reminders, and Poropatich said the system has reduced no-shows.

The Army also is participating in the Text4baby initiative and is testing a reminder system to help diabetics control blood sugar. "The reasons why more patients do not reach appropriate goals for glycemic control are multiple and complex, among them poor compliance with self monitoring of blood glucose and medication non-adherence," Poropatich said. Preliminary results of a study underway at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have shown that patients receiving video reminders on their cell phones achieve better blood-glucose readings than those in a control group.

To learn more about mCare and other Army m-health efforts:
- click through to this InformationWeek story
- read Poropatich's prepared statement to the subcommittee