By Julia LeDoux, Pentagram Staff WriterMay 10, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic Recommends RelayHealth to Increase Access to Healthcare and Mitigate Enrollment Limitations.
Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic's Commander, Col. Laura Trinkle, urges registered patients to communicate with their provider about non-urgent health conditions and symptoms, prescription refills and appointment requests through RelayHealth, Army Medicine's Secure Messaging System.
Janet Cvrk, primary care nurse at Rader's primary care clinic, likened RelayHealth to online banking.
"They can send secure messages to their providers, it's not an email, it's a secure message," she explained. "They can request appointments, prescription refills; they can communicate anything they want to with their doctor. They can get their lab results back through secure messaging."
In order to sign up for RelayHealth at Rader, you must be a registered patient at the clinic.
"Even though Relay Health is now in facilities all over, patients can only really sign-up at this point with their primary care provider," Cvrk said.
Almost 2,200 patients have signed up for RelayHealth at the clinic.
"We think it's a great opportunity to improve communication between the patient and staff," Trinkle said. "The whole goal of RelayHealth is to give patients options of how to contact their providers and hopefully take care of some of their needs without requiring them to come into the clinic."
The Army requires a face-to-face verification of a patient's eligibility to be enrolled in RelayHealth, Cvrk added. Patients can pick up an enrollment form at the clinic and return it after they have filled It out.
"If they fill out this form and give it to anybody here, we take that information and send an invitation to the patient to join RelayHealth," she continued. "They answer back and we accept them and then they can start sending secure messages anytime."
Cvrk said the program also helps provide patient education.
"If a patient emails and says I have a question about a particular medical problem or treatment, we can attach an article or an educational source for that patient and send it back to them," she said.
Theresa Atmore, head nurse at Rader's pediatric and immunization clinic, urged parents to make use of the RelayHealth system when making appointments for school physicals.
"Schedule the physicals before you go on vacation," she urged. "We don't have enough staff to do everybody in August. That's the message I want to get out. Bring your forms that the school requires with the parent section completed when you come for the physical."
Parents should also bring their child's military identification card, shot record, medical record, glasses or contact lenses with them when coming for a physical. Atmore said the appointment can take between 60 and 90 minutes. Extended appointments for school and sports physicals will begin June 3 and run through Sept. 30, she added.
Rader patients can learn more about Relay Health by going to www.army.mil/sites/rader/Pages/Relay Health.aspx. Use of RelayHealth is especially important as the joint base enters summer PCS season. "Unfortunately, this summer we're not going to be able to enroll any additional patients," Col. Laura Trinkle explained. "We will enroll active duty to the McNair Clinic and on a case-by-case basis we may enroll some active duty family members to the McNair Clinic, but Rader proper is closed for enrollment because we don't want to shift patients who have been getting their care here."
Trinkle attributes the enrollment closure on provider losses and an ongoing hiring freeze.
"Between the losses and hiring freeze that's in place, we have not been able to replace those provider losses," she said.
Col. Trinkle is hopeful that the providers who have been lost will be replaced, but she does not know when that will happen.
"The providers that we have on staff are absorbing the workload from those who have departed," she said.
Eligible beneficiaries throughout the National Capital Region, and not those who simply live or work on the joint base, are seen at Rader, Trinkle explained.
"Any active duty, their family members, retirees in the NCR have a choice between Belvoir, here, Walter Reed, Bolling, Quantico and there are a couple of community health clinics," she said.
"This clinic has a very good reputation, so word of mouth has spread and we get a lot of people who want to be enrolled here."
The shortage of providers also means that patients may find it challenging to get an appointment at the clinic, Trinkle said.