FORT SILL, Okla. (Oct. 17, 2013) -- Patients at Reynolds Army Community Hospital can communicate with their doctors without picking up the phone through secure email. The system, known as the Army Medical Secure Messaging Service (AMSMS), allows patients and medical providers to communicate with each other in total privacy.

Developed by Army Medical Command (MEDCOM), the new system uses a commercial Web-based program that allows health care providers and patients to privately send messages and information between each other through a secure link, similar to secure banking Web sites. Patients have direct access to providers and nurses at RACH. If a patient has a question or concern, or they want to refill a prescription, they can send a secure message. And it's not limited to office hours at the hospital.

Patients can also receive results of lab work or the results of X-rays, and then they can be directed to come in for follow-up if needed. Under previous systems, communication between patients and providers involved telephone consults, and if that didn't answer the medical issue, the patients would have to come in and spend several hours waiting to see their provider. Plus, the old system also meant nurses spent a lot of time returning phone calls instead of providing patient care.

This new secure email system is for medical information only and is a more efficient way of communicating with patients. Messages are delivered through a secure site that only the patient and their health care team can access. The system is more secure than telephone calls or regular email, and is fully compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.

Army Medicine began implementing the AMSMS program in 2012 by issuing 2,000 licenses to primary care clinics at 48 military treatment facilities, including RACH. The ultimate goal is to license an additional 5,000 primary and specialty clinics (orthopedics, OB-GYN, etc.) by 2014.

The secure messaging system allows RACH providers to send health education information specifically tailored to a patient's medical profile. It can also notify a patient when there are changes concerning medication they are taking. If there is a conflict with another medication they are taking, the system can advise them to stop taking the medication and see their provider as soon as possible. The messaging system is for routine care issues only and is not intended to answer urgent medical questions. Patients with critical health issues should go to the nearest emergency room.

Patients at Fort Sill who are interested in participating in the secure instant messaging system can contact their primary care provider or nurse at the hospital and ask to be added to the list.