FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS -- The U.S. Army Medical Information Technology Center (USAMITC) is currently upgrading and expanding its Video Network Center (VNC) to meet growing requirements.

The USAMITC VNC supports and provides the infrastructure for video teleconferencing throughout the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) enterprise network worldwide. The VNC's bottom line is to provide video teleconferencing support to facilitate the medical needs of patients and warfighters around the globe. This includes video teleconferencing among U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General (OTSG) staff members, between Military treatment facilities (staff members and other health care professionals) and patients, medical consults between patients and providers, etc.

"This upgrade for the VNC is all part of a MEDCOM approved refresh plan," said Bruce Andrew, VNC Operations Manager. First, the audio bridge capacity was doubled and eliminated denial of service to audio participants. Next, a high definition video wall was installed that has increased VNC's ability to monitor more simultaneous conferences. Thirdly, next generation multi-conference units were successfully deployed that increased video conference capacity, increased the quality of videoconferencing services provided and supported the expansion of multi-site internet protocol (IP) Desktop Video conferencing.

Part of the modernization was to create and implement a new, more robust video dial plan. "The old dial plan was limited and based on old technology," said Andrew. "The new dial plan provides for existing customers and allows for future expansion."

The VNC refresh plan included a tremendous expansion of the audio bridge. "Requests for audio bridging often exceeded capacity," said Andrew. "Before the upgrade, nearly 900 requests for audio bridging were denied due to lack of resources. Since the upgrade, not a single request for audio bridging has been denied. Everyone in the MEDCOM, worldwide, can currently access USAMITC's audio bridging services."

Video teleconferencing (VTC), or telepresence as it's also called, provides an enormous savings in cost and time, and can help improve health care. "VTC allows leadership to cut down travel and lodging costs in general for meetings and training, and can specifically provide cost and time savings for 'Tele-health' consults and evaluations," said Andrew. "Previously, a patient or provider would need to travel to conduct those sessions, which may take weeks or months to occur. Desktop IP Video capability allows patient/provider encounters to get scheduled within days of the request."

"The same could also be said for post separation interviews between health care providers and war fighters, as well as other meetings where being physically able to meet may be time or cost prohibitive or otherwise impractical," said Andrew. "USAMITC's VNC personnel are the facilitators of the technology to connect health care providers and war fighters; we provide a tool for Tele-health professionals to use for the benefit of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines," he said. "While we provide the audio and video means for senior leadership and MEDCOM personnel to conduct command and mission control, collaboration, training and mission coordination; at the end of the day, the most important thing we do in the VNC is to keep Tele-health doctors and their patients connected."

"From the DOD perspective, USAMITC is leading in the video conferencing field," said Andrew. "For our size, we're the first to get to this point or to reach this benchmark technologically."