NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – As it moves to expand the use of virtual health offerings, the US Department of Defense (DoD) Regional Health Command Europe piloted a virtual health (telehealth) program to treat service members with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Ronald Keen, FNP-C, and Steve Cain, PA, reported on the DoD use of virtual health at the 2019 AMSUS annual meeting in Maryland.
The study, conducted between October 2016 and May 2018, included 15 patients stationed in 4 countries, including Poland, Turkey, and Egypt and 67 total health care encounters. Patients were limited to service members in the direct care system or those who were in remote areas where gaps in care existed in the Tricare Network . The virtual health program was centered at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and sought to determine whether virtual health was feasible to treat TBI and whether it would increase patient satisfaction. The multidisciplinary program brought together specialists in 7 different disciplines, including sleep medicine, optometry, behavioral health, and occupational therapy.
According to Keen, the results of the 15-patient pilot were promising. He conservatively estimated a savings of $3,700, and more important, the program saved 322 hours of on-duty time. Health care providers used the program an average 2.8 times, and patients used the system 1.6 times on average. Currently the DoD is requiring active permission from patients to receive a telehealth visit.