Inaugural interservice telehealth partnership launches at Spangdahlem

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house took place here April 1, 2016, for the new 52nd Medical Group/Landstuhl Regional Medical Center telehealth program.

The new technology will allow patients from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to receive treatment via video teleconference from LRMC doctors without leaving the base. The program's installation at Spangdahlem represents the first interservice telehealth partnership in the Department of Defense.

"Cutting a ribbon on new capabilities are always a big deal -- this is a huge deal for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, the 52nd Medical Group and the 52nd Fighter Wing," said U.S. Air Force Col. Timothy Robinette, USAFE and Air Forces Africa command surgeon. "This allows us to move from analog medicine or what we call on aircraft 'steam gauges' to equipment in a glass cockpit now in the digital era. This is a direction that the Air Force is moving, and the Department of Defense is moving. It's a direction we will soon follow with the new electronic health record, and it will support that capability in the years to come. These are innovations, these are growths, and these are developments that will help us get to the next level of health care."

According to U.S. Army Regional Health Command Europe, a telehealth appointment is just like a normal appointment except a medical specialist will see and speak with patients through a monitor. The specialist will already have relevant patient information, but patients may be asked to bring test results, medications or x-rays with them.

Additionally, a telehealth patient presenter, if needed, will be with a patient to help assist with the examination, using tele-diagnostic equipment like a digital stethoscope, otoscope or patient examination camera. The specialist on the monitor can hear a patient's heartbeat and breathing and look into their ears, nose and/or throat as though they were sitting in the same room, according to the RHCE.

"We are so excited about what we are doing," said U.S. Army Col. Kirk Waibel, RHCE telehealth medical director. "That excitement is not just about a piece of technology; it's how the provider is seeing how it helps their patients."

Waibel also said in a March 1, 2016, U.S. Army article that the program has already saved Soldiers, beneficiaries and their commanders an estimated 2,050 work or school days, $1.34 million in travel-related expenses and 825,000 kilometers caused by travel between local clinics and Landstuhl.

"I think there are two things that are awesome about this: the tangible and the intangible," said U.S. Air Force Col. Joe McFall, 52nd FW commander. "The tangible piece is how we talk about innovation: doing it faster, better and cheaper, which this allows us to do all of those things. The intangible piece is there, too, which is how this allows making our Airmen, our families and our community better."

The new technology adds to the 52nd MDG's mission of achieving three desired end-states: being "all in" with their line counterparts to project combat capability by maximizing the readiness of their members and their families; delivering medical excellence in every aspect of operations or support; and promoting healthy communities to enhance human performance.

"This will be the first interservice telehealth partnership in the Department of Defense, and we couldn't be happier to be a part of it," said U.S. Air Force Col. Alfred Flowers, 52nd MDG commander. "Health care is an ever-changing environment. New technology is being developed everyday, and we are excited about the opportunity to use telehealth program, and take advantage of over 30 different specialties as a benefit."

Telehealth Services

April 2016

 May 2016  
-Ear, nose and throat*
-General surgery*
-Sleep clinic

Summer 2016
-Addiction treatment facility
-Behavioral health*
-Cardiology And Coumadin Clinic
-EGD/Colonoscopy (General Surgery)
-Infectious Disease
-NeuroSpine Surgery*
-Occupational Therapy*
-OB High Risk Counseling
-Pain Management*
-Pediatric Developmental and Psychology*
-Pediatric Gastroenterology*
-Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation*
-Pre-operative services
-Speech Pathology

*-Pediatrics Available