LANDSTUHL, Germany - Landstuhl Regional Medical Center recently hosted a Virtual Health Presenters course, which prepares nurses, medics and other health care staff for presenting patients to providers during a virtual health experience.
Over the past several months, the use of virtual health at LRMC alone has increased by more than 500 percent and has improved patient safety during COVID-19 by minimizing in-person encounters and allowing routine appointments to be accomplished miles away.
“(Virtual health) is a fairly new thing that (Naval Hospital) Naples is taking on,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Toomer, a hospital corpsman at Naval Hospital Naples. “This course helps us get acquainted with the providers who you're going to talk to and understand their expectations, what they want you to do specifically, instead of finding out for the first time during a patient presentation.”
The concept of virtual healthcare is similar to modern social media communications or video conferencing, using audio-video technology to enable communication between a healthcare provider and the patient. During COVID-19 operations, military medical treatment facilities across the Regional Health Command Europe have multiplied their virtual health utilization more than 500 percent to continue patient care in accordance with the Department of Defense Health Protection Condition measures.
“(Patients and presenters) are doing a lot more in home,” explains Rachel Wedding, a telehealth nurse at Vicenza Army Health Clinic, located in Italy. “(Virtual health) saves a lot of time too because you can go see me for one and a half hours instead of spending five days driving up (from Italy to Germany).”
The emphasis on physical distancing in medical settings has also increased the need for alternative solutions for delivering patient care.
“If we can get specific specialties via virtual health, it'll cut the time away from work, reduce stress of travel and being away,” said Toomer, a native of Atlanta. “Through a webcam you're still talking to the doctor, still getting the same tests, it’s just saving you time and money.”
According to Wedding, who leads the virtual health efforts at Vicenza AHC, a single appointment for a Service Member from Italy costs approximately $1,000. By using virtual health appointments, Wedding estimates the clinic has saved approximately $2 million over the last two years.
“Virtual health also speeds up care. Instead of coming to the hospital for an initial consultation, preoperative procedures, you come up only for the procedure. You can get requirements, like x-rays, MRI and laboratory services done at the patient’s home clinic, to include medications,” said Wedding.
Wedding explains the course is not only beneficial to patient care, but also for presenters to explore different medical disciplines they are not familiar with.
“I really enjoy (virtual health) because I get to work with so many providers,” said Wedding, a St. Louis native who specializes in cardiac nursing. “Being able to see all these other specialties is beneficial, I learn a lot and it will be useful in the future.”
At LRMC, 42 specialty care services provide virtual health appointments, while more medical providers continuously train to grow capabilities in other areas, including primary care. The three-day course helped prepare and coordinate efforts for patient presentation, preparing presenters for everything from audiology to neurosurgery.