These are exciting times for Army Medicine in the realm of virtual healthcare, often known as telehealth. The Surgeon General's Telemedicine Teleconsultation Programs Project just celebrated its 12-year anniversary with a big month of activity in April. Virtual healthcare is just one way Army Medicine is working to ensure the readiness of service members by providing access to care at remote locations around the globe.

During April, 60 consultations were answered by the email teleconsultation program, bringing the total to 13,432 teleconsultations since the program began in April 2004, according to Chuck Lappan, project manager.

The average April reply time was 3 hours 20 minutes from locations around the world, and the most requested specialties were dermatology, orthopedics and radiology. Teleconsultations are frequently a joint mission with US Navy ships at sea sending 12 consultations in April, followed by Egypt (Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai), Kuwait and Afghanistan. "In April, we received our first consultation from Bulgaria and our first consultation from the USS Stockdale," Lappan explained.

Virtual healthcare often prevents the need for evacuation because the providers, based on the recommendations of the consultant, are able to treat or manage the medical issue at the deployed location. Also, consultants often provide recommendations of whether or not to evacuate a patient.

In April, two "known" evacuations were prevented while three "known" consultations occurred following receipt of the consultant's recommendation, according to Lappan. "Known" evacuations and consultations are determined by provider feedback. "Known" evacuations are those in which the provider was thinking about evacuating the patient but, upon the consultant's recommendation, decided to provide necessary medical care at the deployed location instead. Alternatively, "known" consultations are those in which the provider asked the consultant if the patient should be evacuated and the consultant confirmed evacuation was appropriate.

Three case studies in April included a Traumatic Brain Injury - Neurology - Sleep Medicine consultation involving a Soldier who was 650 meters from an IED. The other two cases involved an orthopedics and ophthalmology consultation.

May turned out to be a busy month too, according to Lappan, with the first infection control consultation of 2016 and two back-to-back toxicology consultations. One case involved a Soldier who was bitten by a viper. The other involved a Soldier who was stung by a death-stalker scorpion. Infectious Diseases, which only had one consultation in April, has answered five consultations thru the first 10 days of May.