BETHESDA, MD – The Defense Health Agency is prototyping a new virtual education center to provide patients in the military health system with a list of personalized, verified, and timely medical information to answer questions that inevitably arise between appointments.
Healthcare providers will be able to quickly send case-specific medical information to patients via email or SMS. According to medical experts, this is a better and more reliable option than finding information on the Internet which may not always be accurate or appropriate for an individual patient’s situation.
“One of our goals is to eventually combine this verified information via the VEC with the emerging deployment of the MHS GENESIS patient portal, which is part of the new electronic medical records system of the Ministry of Defense,” Lt. Col. (Dr.) Maria Molina, said the division chief of medical modernization and simulation, education and training branch, at DHA headquarters in Falls Church, Va.
Molina thanked Lt. Gen. (Dr) Ronald Place, Director of DHA, for drawing attention to the importance of health literacy and the relative lack of organized information for patients, stating: “Lt. Le General Place raised these concerns in the spring of 2020 and the DHA launched new research into patient education in healthcare through the MHS, which ended in December and confirmed that there was indeed a gap.
“When a patient sees me, I often need to look in multiple places to gather take-home information about their condition, which is ineffective and a misuse of the limited time I have with my patients,” Molina, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist and works one day a week at nearby Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, said.
“But, right now, there is no easy, consolidated way for me to give them controlled patient education,” she explained.
Molina worked with the Program Manager for Medical Simulation and Training, who is part of the DHA Component Acquisition Director, to translate the needs of the education and training leadership into a solution. A contract for the construction of the VEC prototype was awarded in September.
The VEC project aligns with DHA’s “Ready Reliable Care” framework and the agency’s goal of “satisfied patients”.
“We have a vendor who has developed this capability commercially and it’s an incredible product,” said Brett Lord, deputy program director for PM MST, headquartered in Orlando, Florida.
With a customizable dashboard, vendors can create folders, “search all content, and save [an article] as a favorite to store in this folder for later review, ”Lord said.
Molina said the project is currently in the prototype development phase. The next step will be a pilot program in several military hospitals, followed by a rollout of the MHS enterprise-wide service which is expected to take place in 2023. This is where the partnership plan with MHS GENESIS will come into play. .
In the future, the VEC aims to integrate a screen tab into MHS GENESIS for patient education. Providers can simply click to send verified information via email or text message to the patient. The message will prompt the patient to read the information and the provider can see if the patient has viewed the article.
“From a workload perspective, we didn’t want the doctor to have to change systems to prescribe content,” Lord said.
Molina said this method is “absolutely” preferable to patients doing their own research online because the information patients find may be unreliable or inaccurate. CVE sources will be validated by DHA.
Other clinical information will also be transmitted by the system, thus minimizing the possibility, for example, of losing a piece of paper given to a patient on discharge. Patients will have their own customizable dashboard so they can search the entire site.
VEC will be a “new source of truth” and a “rich virtual experience” for patients and providers, according to the provider. There will even be voluntary “questionnaires” so patients can prepare for doctor visits, so doctors can see ahead of time if patients have read and understood the material.
The new system will also have the ability to quickly disseminate emergency information.
A commercial version of the system is already in use in some civilian hospitals.
“I’m very excited,” said Molina, “It could have a huge impact not only on patient satisfaction, but also provider satisfaction. Providers want to provide their patients with the best possible care while being efficient and able to manage their time.