FORT SILL, Okla., Nov. 1, 2018 -- Technology shapes our future and redefines our perception of normal. What was once considered science fiction is now science fact.

The military health system in conjunction with its ongoing transition under the Defense Health Agency has established a virtual medicine program that allows military treatment facilities throughout the Department of Defense to care for Soldiers and their family members regardless of their physical location. Virtual medicine is about providing health care around the world and expanding provider capabilities. It will allow the Joint Health Enterprise to integrate all service members back into the fight with minimal disruptions of the mission and improve overall readiness.

Virtual health is the future, and the future is now at Reynolds Army Health Clinic (RAHC). As part of iis ongoing expansion of services, RAHC supported Soldier readiness by conducting periodic health assessments (PHAs) at RAHC for Soldiers who were located nearly 1,000 miles away. Virtual medicine allows doctors and care teams at RAHC to provide care in specialty areas that may not be available at the Soldiers' local military treatment facility.

"Our Health Readiness Center on the second floor here at Reynolds has become the standard of excellence in regards to how PHAs are administered for Soldiers," said Col. Douglas Maurer, deputy commander for clinical services at RAHC.

Although PHAs are no longer a requirement for deployment, they are still a key component to the success of the Health Readiness Center (HRC).

"Our mission at the HRC is to improve readiness, resilience, and performance for Fires Soldiers," said Maurer, "The HRC operates under a 'predict, prevent, and personalize' approach instead of the reactionary 'find it and fix it' mentality of the past. This allows us to identify potential readiness issues in Soldiers early on, and treat them before they can become a larger issue."

As a primary care physician, Maurer recently administered PHAs for three Soldiers stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., while never leaving the Health Readiness Center at RAHC.

"Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center at Fort Huachuca reached out to us for help with their PHA backlog," Maurer said. "We saw this as an opportunity to establish our virtual health capabilities here at Reynolds."

Once the decision was made to conduct the virtual PHAs, there was a coordinated effort between the two military treatment facilities to ensure that all the pieces came together to ensure success.

Sitting in an office in the Health Readiness Center, in front of what looks like a regular desktop computer with an oversized webcam attached to one of the monitors, Maurer conducted the virtual periodic health assessments for the three Soldiers.

"This test of concept was very productive," said Col. Enrique Ortiz, RAHC commander.

The newly established virtual health capability is part of a larger Army Medicine initiative that looks to expand virtual health systems across Army Medicine as a whole.

"The virtual PHAs we conduct here in the Health Readiness Center are just one of several virtual health system initiatives we have at Reynolds," said Maurer. "One of the command priorities here at RAHC, and with Regional Health Command Central as well, is to establish a strong virtual health system that will enable us to consult with specialty providers who are not currently available at Reynolds or in the local network area."

Ortiz reiterated that priority: "This virtual health capability will improve readiness here in the Fires Center of Excellence as well as help other military installations improve their readiness. Reynolds is a health readiness platform that will consume and produce virtual health. Our goal is for the Joint Health Enterprise to recognize and make Reynolds the Center of Excellence for all virtual PHAs."

Readiness is the top priority for the Army. RAHC remains committed to readiness by leveraging virtual health to achieve a medically ready force and a ready medical force to all units at Fort Sill and others across all branches of the military.