YAKIMA, Wash. - Members of the Regional Health Command-Pacific team recently executed virtual health capabilities testing with partner agencies during the U.S. Army's largest annual joint-multinational live exercise.

The medical capabilities testing was a part of the Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019, or JWA 19, which took place April 23 to May 10 at Yakima Training Center and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. The event included medical providers, nurses and medics from RHC-P, Madigan Army Medical Center, Telemedical Research for Operational Support, the 250th Forward Surgical Team and other medical assets. The medical personnel were tasked with executing virtual health clinical training and also providing clinical proctors, technical staff and field connectivity that allowed clinical reach-back via video teleconference and image capture.

"Testing regional virtual health equipment in an operational environment allows the region and units to assess firsthand the value of virtual health and the ability to reach back to organic medical resources," said Marisa Burgess-Suntheimer, director, Virtual Health, RHC-P.

Throughout RHC-P, virtual health technology is currently used to connect smaller, outlying clinics to major medical centers where specialists can virtually consult with staff on the ground.

Burgess-Suntheimer, who provided on-site consultation during JWA 19, added that some of the technology was being tested by RHC-P in the field and operational environment for the first time.

"Utilizing VH during JWA demonstrated the ability of the teams to rapidly reach back beyond initial resuscitation and stabilization to a wider range of medical and nursing interventions," she said.

One combat casualty care scenario tested during the assessment utilized Telehealth-In-A-Bag and a Transportable Exam Station for a simulated traumatic brain injury patient. This culminated in a simulated craniectomy performed by a non-neurosurgeon provider, tele-mentored on site by a Madigan trauma surgeon.

The inclusion of virtual health services represented just one of dozens of capabilities and concepts being tested during JWA 19.

Sponsored by the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, JWA 19 is the U.S. Army's largest annual joint-multinational live exercise in which the U.S. military and partner nations assess future warfighting concepts, capabilities and formations in a large-scale and realistic battlefield exercise.

The lessons learned will inform the development of the rapidly changing Army. For members of the military health team, it helped illuminate future opportunities for the use of virtual health in the field.

"Virtual health is the right thing to do in bringing specialty care forward to the operational side," said Burgess-Suntheimer. "We still have work to do ... however, I believe the exercise allowed us to gain valuable information on how to move forward."