MCDONALD ARMY HEALTH CENTER, Fort Eustis, Va. -- Fort Eustis Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Soldiers receive innovative virtual health services from the McDonald Army Health Center’s (MCAHC’s) Troop Medical Services. Virtual Health is flourishing and is the new normal for healthcare delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With systems such as the Virtually Integrated Patient Readiness & Remote Care (VIPRR) and their own internal assets at the AIT Skymaster Clinic, Fort Eustis’s Troop Medical Services (TMS) has leveraged electronic information and communication technologies to provide virtual health. For AIT Soldiers, this maximizes their access to care and minimizes the time Soldiers spend away from their required AIT military occupational skills (MOS) training.
“We have been providing virtual health care to AIT Soldiers for sick call and Periodic Health Assessments (PHAs) for about 2 years. Then at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic we implemented telephone virtual appointments for all AIT Soldiers, initially using the charge of quarters desk phone and now each unit is implementing HIPAA compliant rooms in each barracks with phone and video capability so we the Skymaster Clinic providers can have telephone and video virtual health visits with the AIT Soldiers when a face to face is not needed. It is something that has helped with infection control during the time of COVID-19, and we want to maintain and expand this capability even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. We have also implemented a COVID-19 ready in-processing process for AIT readiness that allows us to medically in-process AIT Soldiers over a period of 1-3 days that meets our COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, and we are working on implementing a complimentary out-processing process as well,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Feltwell, TMC Officer in Charge.
Partnerships between units on Fort Eustis and the TMCs is the common thread to develop the means of keeping Soldiers ready to fight and protect the nation through increased medical readiness. The 1-222nd
Aviation Regiment manages six AIT companies, training over 1,600 AIT Soldiers in 10 different aviation- related MOS’. They have partnered with the TMC staff to develop new ways to provide healthcare to Soldiers both in support of the training mission and to help with infection control in the time of COVID-19.
”Our cadre work hand-in-hand with the Skymaster Clinic leadership to manage appointments (virtual and in-person), as well as in/out processing of our Soldiers. We have made recent changes to our procedures to improve the effectiveness of virtual healthcare and over-the-phone appointments.” said Command Sgt. Maj. Randell Wise, Senior Enlisted Advisor for 1-222nd Aviation Regiment.
Virtual health is now recognized as the future of medicine across the military enterprise. Its capabilities include the use of electronic information and communication technologies to enable health care despite the distance that might exist between provider and patient. It not only enables cross leveraging of medical capabilities and specialty services throughout the military health system, but also achieves this objective while increasing military readiness, patient access to care, quality and patient safety while simultaneously decreasing the cost and need for travel.
According to Feltwell, innovation and efficient health care delivery is the key to Soldier readiness on Fort Eustis especially during the fight against COVID-19.
“Virtual care for AIT Soldiers, starting with virtual sick call, allows us to reduce the time out of training for all AIT Soldiers and reduce the time for the cadre to provide transportation and supervision for sick call visits,” Feltwell explained. “Traditionally, the AIT Soldiers would be brought over to the TMC in a large group each morning to be evaluated and triaged to receive medical care.”
Medically taking care of Soldiers and keeping them in the fight is the U.S. Army’s mission, but now in the age of COVID, that mission has been modified to virtually adapt to be ready to protect the nation.