Military Health System (MHS) Uses Pandemic to Improve MHS Video Connect
At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) most recent conference, health care innovation was a persistent theme. Health officials from the Department of Defense (DOD) spoke about the challenges the Department has faced since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“How can we safely keep ships at sea? How can we launch submarines and aircraft? How do we manage troop movements around the world with … this?” said Lieutenant General Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), about the effects of the virus on military readiness.
“And the answer is information. We need it right. We need it fast. And we need it to make decisions on how to manage the pandemic and still preserve our ability to project a fighting force.”
Part of the DoD’s response to the pandemic included expanding electronic health record systems to account for mass vaccinations. As such, Defense.gov is updated regularly with service member vaccination data and Health Protection Conditions. As of January 10, the DOD moved to HPCON Charlie, canceling in-person activities, and restricting some travel and access to military bases.
What Is the MHS?
According to Place, the Military Health System, or MHS, is the largest health care provider of its category in the world. The MHS staffs over 600 hospitals and clinics with 150,000 medical professionals. It provides medical services to over 9.6 million people (including current service members, veterans, and their family members). Moreover, the system’s annual budget tops $54 billion each year.
Yet, MHS officials identified several areas for improvement to better serve its beneficiaries. Increasing the availability of treatment for those who can’t make it to a facility is a key initiative.
The mission of the Military Health System is to “ensure that all active and reserve medical personnel in uniform are trained and ready to provide medical care in support of operational forces around the world.”
In recent years, the MHS focused on modernizing its health records. Now, in about 30% of MHS hospitals and clinics worldwide, MHS Genesis (a standardized, electronic health record system) is in operation. The system makes testing, treatment, and healthcare advances faster.
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In addition to Genesis, the agency has placed greater importance on reaching those who need treatment, but can’t access it due to deployment, living in rural areas, or shutdowns caused by the pandemic. Subsequently, the MHS continued to increase the capabilities of virtual healthcare resources, while citing the need for in-person visits in some, complex care situations.
Some of the Defense Health Agency innovations include:
- MHS Nurse Advice Line – Talk to a nurse over the phone, toll-free, 24/7 for health care support.
- MHS Video Connect – For those who live too far from their military treatment provider, find traveling to in-person visits difficult, are too busy, or only have minor questions, Video Connect allows patients to meet with their care team virtually. Upon making an appointment, a unique and secure teleconferencing link is sent to the patient. If necessary, doctors can recommend the patient for in-person treatment.
- TRICARE Online Patient Portal – Use the secure chat system to ask questions, check your test results, make appointments, and more with the all-in-one system.