Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health

Image of Mr. Adler with text: "Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health.". Jamie Adler is the lead for the DHA’s Virtual Health Clinical Integration Office, part of the DHA Connected Health Branch, under DHA Medical Affairs. (Graphic courtesy of DHA Connected Health.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Care Technology | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

In the pre-COVID-19 world, nearly all health care was delivered in person within brick-and-mortar facilities. Telehealth, referred to in the Department of Defense as virtual health or VH, was a promise of the future—a capability whose time had not quite yet arrived. VH, in those pre-pandemic days, and years, was relegated to pilot demonstrations and to specific specialties such as behavioral health delivered in limited settings.

As with so many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped away long-held health care delivery practices and assumptions. Questions stopped being about if or even when VH would “take off” and started to be about how to maximize VH’s scope and reach in as short of a timeframe as possible. Mirroring the rest of the health care field, DOD rapidly scaled up VH capabilities, guidance, training, procedures, and provider and beneficiary communication and education. Over a period of weeks, the result was a multi-fold increase in overall VH capacity that supported basic clinical services across the DOD enterprise.

From a VH perspective, the pre-COVID-19 world is likely gone. VH as a core health care capability is here to stay. The Military Health System’ path forward can build upon COVID-19 and pre-existing efforts to develop enterprise VH capabilities that connect service members and their families to optimal health care—wherever and whenever it is needed.

To achieve this goal, it is important to realize that VH is not a single technology or business platform, or even group of platforms. Rather, it is about people, processes, and technologies working together across the entire MHS to create health care access solutions on behalf of our 9.6 million beneficiaries around the world.

The MHS is leveraging the experiences and workflows developed rapidly in response to COVID-19 to catalyze transformational change in enterprise use of VH. Coordination among multiple key stakeholders is essential and already underway to develop sustainable solutions that meet real MHS-wide needs.

These stakeholders include:

  • The newly emerging Defense Health Agency markets—regional clusters of MHS military medical treatment facilities
  • An enterprise-wide Virtual Medical Center
  • A variety of DHA headquarters offices, including the DHA Connected Health Branch’s Virtual Health Clinical Integration Office
  • The TRICARE private sector care network
  • The military services and interagency partners such as the Department of Veterans Affairs

Many Systems into One

For years, service-based enterprise and regional health care leaders and military medical treatment facilities (MTFs) spearheaded individual initiatives that built useful VH capabilities in a number of locations across the MHS. This approach, however, resulted in fragmented availability of VH capabilities across the more than 700 MTFs constituting the MHS. In addition, the TRICARE private sector care network permitted VH care only under limited circumstances.

In the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required the DOD to expand VH across a wide spectrum of services and specialties, and across all direct (MTF-based) care and private sector care networks. Furthermore, Congress required that this VH expansion occur within the context of a consolidation and unification of non-deployed health care under the DHA. Since then, the DHA, the services, and their stakeholders have been working to prioritize, fund, and deliver integrated enterprise VH capabilities to medical centers and clinics, patient locations in the community, and settings in the field.

These efforts have one goal: create an integrated, comprehensive, high-quality, and reliable VH capability that reaches from forward deployment to fixed medical facilities, community settings, and to DOD partners such as the VA. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, as profound as it has been, was to greatly accelerate a process of enterprise VH expansion that is already ongoing.

Success of this endeavor would provide field units, clinics, inpatient facilities, managed care network providers, and virtual providers with the flexibility to meet patient needs regardless of location, while leveraging enterprise-wide competency, technical, procedural, and quality standards. This capability will turn VH into a powerful force multiplier for the MHS, delivering great health outcomes, support for a ready medical force, and enhanced beneficiary satisfaction. By increasing provider and support staff reach, capability, and effectiveness, VH will also help with the DHA’s goal of a fulfilled staff.

Looking Ahead

The COVID-19 pandemic is still testing MHS’ ability to use existing tools, training, and procedures to mount an aggressively accelerated deployment of VH capabilities. As we envision post-pandemic growth of virtual health, the MHS will need to continue to expand VH capabilities across its enterprise, while planning for the comprehensive and integrated tools and approaches that will make such growth sustainable in the long term.

Fielding any technology-based capability—including virtual health—takes a lot of pre-planning, collaboration, and effort. The development, acquisition, and sustainment of VH platforms across the MHS enterprise is an especially complex undertaking.

The MHS has many requirements beyond those followed by the non-DoD health care industry. In addition to providing safe, convenient, quality services, MHS VH must support military readiness and deployed health care, while operating within an environment of enhanced government regulation and heightened security. Meeting these requirements necessitates planning for all appropriate contingencies, including natural and man-made disasters and global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results of these efforts, on the part of the MHS and its partners will be a virtual health capability that provides universal and global access to high-quality care and consultation to all beneficiaries, regardless of location or circumstance. This future state will be worth the effort for providers, and most importantly for patients, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

You also may be interested in...

Health Technologies for Service Members and Families

Publication
3/23/2020

This reference guide provides a brief overview of the most helpful apps for health developed by the DoD and VA.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Mobile Apps

Health Technologies for Patients

Publication
3/23/2020

This reference chart provides a cross-reference for health issues and the DoD mobile apps that support them.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Mobile Apps

Prescription for Connected Health Rx Pad

Publication
3/23/2020

This prescription pad gives health care providers a simple tool allowing them to "prescribe" mobile health technology to their patients.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Mobile Apps

COVID-19 Life Support Training Extension

Publication
3/19/2020

The purpose of this memorandum is to set policy guidance within the Military Health System for American Red Cross life support training (First Aid/cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/automated external defibrillator (AED), Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Life Support (ALS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Prescription for Connected Health Rx Pad

Publication
3/18/2020

This prescription pad gives health care providers a simple tool allowing them to "prescribe" mobile health technology to their patients.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Mobile Apps | Total Force Fitness

Health Technologies for Service Members and Families 2020

Publication
3/18/2020

This reference guide provides a brief overview of the most helpful apps for health developed by the DoD and VA.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Mobile Apps | Total Force Fitness

Health Technologies for Patients 2020

Publication
3/18/2020

This chart gives health care providers a quick overview of the health conditions supported by the currently available DoD mobile applications for health.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Mobile Apps | Total Force Fitness

DoD and VA Mobile App Clinicians Guide

Publication
8/28/2019

This chart for health care providers identifies which DoD and VA mobile health apps provide resources and support for specific health conditions affecting service members.

Recommended Content:

Mobile Apps | Health Care Technology

DoD and VA Apps for Service Members

Publication
8/28/2019

Chart outlining the features of several DoD and VA mobile applications supporting health and readiness in service members and military families.

Recommended Content:

Mobile Apps | Health Care Technology

DHA Prescription Pad for Connected Health

Publication
8/28/2019

Prescription pad created by DHA Connected Health permitting health care providers to "prescribe" mobile applications and websites supporting health and readiness.

Recommended Content:

Mobile Apps | Health Care Technology

US DoD Mobile Health Practice Guide Fourth Edition Sept 2018

Publication
8/14/2019

US DoD Mobile Health Practice Guide, Fourth Edition, is a guide for clinical health care provider to aid them in integrating digital health technology into clinical practice.

Recommended Content:

Mobile Apps | Health Care Technology

Cultural Considerations in Using Mobile Health in Clinical Care With Military and Veteran Populations

Publication
5/14/2019

Traditional cultural models typically address factors like ethnicity, language, and race as important concerns pertaining to treatment efficacy, but over the years, professionals have expanded the focus to include gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and other aspects of identity and experience, including military cultural issues. As the integration of mobile health increases in clinical care, another important cultural factor that can impact care is technological culture. Differences in perception of technological competence by patient and provider can impact the provider’s ability to effectively connect with the patient and fully leverage tools to support evidence-based treatment.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Health Care Technology

Mobile Applications for Client Use: Ethical and Legal Considerations

Publication
5/14/2019

Mobile applications (apps) to support behavioral health are increasing in number and are recommended frequently by medical providers in a variety of settings. As with the use of any adjunct tool in therapy, psychologists adopting new technologies in clinical practice must comply with relevant professional ethics codes and legal standards. However, emerging technologies can outpace regulations regarding their use, presenting novel ethical considerations. Therefore, it is incumbent upon providers to extrapolate current ethical standards and laws to new technologies before they recommend them as adjuncts to face-to-face treatment. This article identifies best practices for incorporating apps into treatment, including competence in the use of smartphones in general and familiarity with the specific apps recommended.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Health Care Technology

Smartphone Apps for Psychological Health: A Brief State of the Science Review

Publication
5/14/2019

In this brief state of the science review, we provide a synopsis of the literature on psychological health mobile applications (apps) and discuss the impact of mobile technology on psychological health practice. We describe the variety of psychological health app uses from self-management, skills training, and supportive care to symptom tracking and data collection; and we summarize the current evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of psychological health apps. Finally, we offer some pragmatic suggestions for evaluating psychological health apps for quality and clinical utility.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Health Care Technology

Help Military Clients Transitioning to Civilian Life

Publication
12/11/2018

An article to provide reference and resources for service members in the process of or transitioned out of active duty service.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology
<< < ... 6 7 > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 7
Refine your search
Last Updated: June 14, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.