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MHS Video Connect Improves Provider Productivity, Patient Readiness

Image of Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert Cornfeld shines light on how MHS Video Connect improves provider productivity. . Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert Cornfeld shines light on how MHS Video Connect improves provider productivity.

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The following article is a first-person account by Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert Cornfeld, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

MHS Video Connect, the Defense Health Agency's new comprehensive telehealth platform, rolled out to all U.S.-based forces in 2021 and is currently being rolled out outside the continental U.S.

Convenient, secure, and easy to use, this new web-based interface empowers patients to meet with their military health provider virtually through live video on any internet-connected device. The expansion of this standardized virtual video visit capability across the Military Health System offers providers the opportunity to explore the platform's many features and apply them to improve patient access, engagement, and outcomes.

As a military clinician with years of providing virtual care, I now use MHS Video Connect frequently. And I see an exciting time where more providers can make virtual health a win for themselves and their patients. Once we do that, the wins for the MHS as a whole will follow.

The benefits for providers are different for every specialty. It's different for me as a pediatric gastroenterologist than it is for my colleagues.

Performing video visits is a growing experience – where you begin is not going to be where you end up.

Selfishly, I began using video visits as a way to connect with patients more quickly and effectively than by talking to them on the telephone. Phone calls also don't earn the same Relative Value Units (RVU) - a key DHA metric for provider productivity—as in-person visits.

Video visits gave me a connection with patients that actually shortened the visits and also earned equivalent RVUs to in-person visits. Over time, I have slowly expanded my practice to seeing almost any gastroenterology condition virtually. I know I will always have the safety net to see patients in person. It will be a more focused visit, as I will already know the patient's story and have likely started either further evaluation or treatment.

Increased Productivity

My health care team's biggest win is that when I am able to see a patient virtually, my nurse is free to do something else – taking vitals from one patient or drawing blood from another. That is a huge help in a health system in which we may have fewer people working than we want. One licensed practical nurse supports two pediatric gastroenterologists in my clinic. When I am doing video visits, she can support my colleague or other physicians.

MHS Video Connect also offers productivity enhancements to all active duty service members, their families, and retirees enrolled in a military hospital or clinic as well. Providers, patients, and up to five guests just click on a link to enter their own secure, private virtual treatment room, enabling a completely new level of collaboration and healthcare delivery.

Enhanced Readiness

For the military, bringing health care to the point of need is the definition of conserving the fighting force and supporting readiness. Reducing the friction of health care in military operations by bringing health care to the point of need highlights what makes military medicine different from our civilian counterparts.

In pediatrics, the vast majority of in-person visits require a parent to leave their home, work, or place of duty to bring in their child. When I reach into the family space to bring health care to the point of need, it makes their lives a bit easier. That in turn frees the child to focus on getting better and keeps the active duty service member focused on their military mission.

I joke with my pediatric patients that I am mean because I want them to stay at school and not see me in clinic. But then I'll turn and tell the parents I'm mean to them, too, because they're not doing their military jobs if they're sitting in my waiting room. Meeting patients where they are at through MHS Video Connect is a huge win for children, their families, and the Military Health System.

Getting Your Feet Wet

Realistically, it will take time for providers to embrace the opportunities of MHS Video Connect. We may be caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities that adding something new is daunting.

I challenge providers interested in learning more about virtual health to begin with one MHS Video Connect appointment a day. It's a great way to get your feet wet in learning how to best apply virtual health to your practice. Providers are taught to practice in-person care and your first few video visits may feel uncomfortable.

Several years ago, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, I had a seasoned gastroenterologist colleague tell me, "I'm never going to do a video visit, you're crazy." Imagine my surprise when that doctor came back to me a couple of months later and said, "This is the best! I don't know why I never did this before! I can talk to the patient and they're not in my office and I can get everything done."

As you do one MHS Video Connect visit here, one visit there, you are going to learn more. Your team is going to learn more as well. As you get more familiar and skilled with the platform, you are going to want to do more with it.

That experience and confidence will only help you and your patients as virtual health becomes a mainstay of MHS care delivery going forward.

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Last Updated: June 10, 2022

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