By Ms. Wendy Arevalo (Army Medicine)August 7, 2017
Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center is leading the pack in health communication efforts through the use of RelayHealth across the Army.
RelayHealth is a secure online service through which healthcare providers and patients can communicate about healthcare matters. Patients can request a prescription refill, appointments, receive lab or test results, ace ss and update their health information and ask questions of their healthcare provider.
Since December 2015, patient utilization of RelayHealth at RWBAHC has more than tripled.
RWBAHC now boasts the highest utilization rate in the U.S. Army Medical Command with 25 messages sent or received per 100 patients enrolled in the system per month.
Leadership and clinical staff from other military treatment facilities are scheduling visits to Fort Huachuca to learn the processes that are being used to improve health communication with patients.
Lt. Col. Karl Brewer, RWBAHC Deputy Commander Clinical Services, said RelayHealth has helped staff provide the best patient care he's seen in his career as a healthcare provider.
"With this added communication tool and an amazing team, RWBAHC healthcare is the best patient-centered healthcare I have seen in my 16 years in the Army and we can still get better," said Brewer.
The health center has also tripled message volume, going from 1,000 to 3,000 messages per month and the teams are responding in less than eight hours 85 percent of the time, according to Brewer.
More than 70 percent of patients are enrolled in RelayHealth and that number continues to grow.
Patients see the convenience of using the system, according to Brewer. After getting lab tests or a radiology study completed, the results are sent to them by their provider, frequently with a description of what the test shows and a follow up plan. This prevents the need for a follow up appointment to review labs or other tests and one less trip to the health center.
In addition, staff is starting to send a message following each visit which summarizes the plan that was discussed, and any medications that were prescribed or referrals placed. This helps patients remember all that was discussed during their visit and also allows them to message back questions they may still have.
Any TRICARE beneficiary can use the system by registering via the website, https://app.mil.relayhealth.com/, being assigned to a military treatment facility, and having an assigned primary care provider. Beneficiaries can also come to their assigned clinic and get enrolled.
Clinic providers and nursing staff see the benefit of the system too, and it took a team effort by the staff to incorporate the system into daily operations, Brewer said.
RWBAHC staff developed a Clinical Team Optimization Program to come up with a plan to successfully integrate RelayHealth into the daily clinical workflow and patient communication.
The next step was to get patients excited about using the system.
RWBAHC Licensed Practical Nurse Amanda Cianciolo said although patients were a little reluctant to begin using the system at first, they were pleased with the convenience of it once they saw how beneficial it was.
"It makes it more convenient for them to get appointments, questions and answers, medication refills," Cianciolo said.
She said the system provides better overall care.
"We're able to answer them in a more timely manner than having to give them a call if they call us," Cianciolo said. "It's just a little bit easier instead of playing back and forth phone tag if they miss our call. We're able to respond to them more quickly and then they're more satisfied."
Doug Simmons, a family nurse practitioner at RWBAHC, said patients like RelayHealth because they get direct communication with their provider.
"It's easier with things like normal labs because they get those answered fast. (We can) just send them a RelayMessage telling them all their labs look good. If there's anything we need to address, we'll get an appointment scheduled," Simmons said.
Jack Murphy, a patient at RWBAHC, has been using RelayHealth for four years. He said it's a very useful tool.
"I email my doctor once a week and if I have a question he responds back in 24 hours," Murphy said. "It's a lot better than getting an appointment, but if I need an appointment to see him, I will."
Murphy said he also uses RelayHealth daily to track his glucose, refill his medications, get updates on his prescriptions, and upload information from outside providers into his personal health record.
Murphy said he no longer has to take insulin due to tracking his blood sugar and regular contact with his doctor via RelayHealth.
He said using RelayHealth is also nice to use when far away from a military treatment facility.
"I just email my doctor and tell him I'll be out of town for three months, and he updates my prescriptions via RelayHealth," Murphy said. "Then I just go to a (local pharmacy) and pick them up."
Murphy is just one of the many who have benefited from the improved health communication that RelayHealth provides.
RWBAHC staff continues to improve the healthcare processes to better serve their patients.
"It seems like a patient's confidence in the control they have over their health really grows when they feel supported by their clinical team," said Brewer. "By using RelayHealth secure messaging, the RWBAHC team is committed to continuing to improve the communication with their patients and helping them improve their health."