U.S. ARMY HEALTH CLINIC-VICENZA, Italy -- Since the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Vicenza started offering Virtual Health appointments about one year ago, more than 600 patients have been treated by a medical provider in Landstuhl, Germany, without the hassles of the commute.

The time patients have saved amounts to thousands of hours, keeping Soldiers in the mission and family members close to home and their support systems.

Virtual Health uses advanced telecommunication technologies to provide healthcare when long distances separate the care team from the patient. These appointments are created from normal referrals from a Military Treatment Facility health care provider when a patient is referred to a specialist at another MTF.

The provider refers the patient, then the patient gets an email with date and time of their appointment. When the patient arrives for their Virtual Health appointment at the clinic, a specially trained staff member, like a medic or nurse, performs all typical pre-appointment activities, like taking vital signs, measuring height and weight and more. The nurse also explains what the patient can expect during the appointment, and the nurse will set up a mobile cart with medical instruments, video monitor, microphone and speakers.

Then a specialty provider sitting at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center will appear on the computer screen will perform the exam with assistance from the nurse, speaking to both the patient and the nurse through the video monitor. The audio, video and other health information is all sent over a secure Virtual Health network. Some appointments may require use of special cameras which will be operated locally by the trained medical specialist or a nurse to help the specialist on the other end to see the specific need of the patient more clearly.

While not all referrals can be conducted through Virtual Health, there are tremendous benefits when this type of appointment is possible. Patients, families and military units see minimal work loss, less hassle, saved travel funds, no long drive to LRMC with an overnight stay and possible traffic.

Virtual Health appointments have doubled since throughout the first year they have been available at the USAHC-V. Overall, patients have had very positive experiences, many of them sharing that it was easier than expected.

Many patients also submit comments saying they think Virtual Health should be used more often, because they were glad they didn't have to travel to Germany for a 30-minute appointment.

For more information, contact the USAHC-V Virtual Health team at DSN 636-9555, comm. 0444-67-9555. (Passut is the Patient Advocate and Public Affairs representative at the USAHC-Vicenza.)