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Navy Medicine demonstrates Virtual Health options to Africa

Air Force Staff Sgt. Danny Lim practices conducting a throat examination on Army Sgt. Harvey Drayton at Chabelley Airfield, Djibouti. Drayton and Lim were introduced to the Telehealth In A Bag system during a recent visit that included personnel from Regional Health Command Europe's virtual health team. (U.S. Army photo by Russell Toof) Air Force Staff Sgt. Danny Lim practices conducting a throat examination on Army Sgt. Harvey Drayton at Chabelley Airfield, Djibouti. Drayton and Lim were introduced to the Telehealth In A Bag system during a recent visit that included personnel from Regional Health Command Europe's virtual health team. (U.S. Army photo by Russell Toof)

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CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti, Africa — Members from the Regional Health Command Europe and Army and Navy Virtual Health teams traveled to Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa, to unveil a plan to bring Virtual Health options to the region.

Djibouti hosts the largest U.S. American military base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier. With more than 4,000 personnel on the base, Virtual Health technologies can augment care and bring portable solutions to keep them healthy, focused and mission ready. Currently, personnel often have to travel to a military treatment facility to seek care. Technology today allows medical staff to provide care in ways never seen before, and without leaving their assigned duty station.

“Our active duty service members should not have to sacrifice on the level of care they receive when they are deployed,” said Navy Capt. Valerie Riege, Chief Innovation and Integration Officer for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. “Virtual health is a gamechanger in medicine today and will bring quality health care to the warfighter when and where they need it.”

Medical representatives met with health care providers from various military units and discussed current virtual health capabilities such as the Telehealth in a Bag. A demonstration of these solutions provided opportunities for medics to test the technologies and see how they could be used to extend care in their region. The team also traveled to the U.S. Embassy to meet with the provider and to demonstrate virtual health capabilities that could help the Embassy staff better care for their patients in remote areas.

"With Virtual Health, we're bringing the medical center to the warfighter," said Army Lt. Col. Robert Cornfeld, the Virtual Health Medical Director at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. "What we're beginning to do here in Djibouti is to enable the providers to use their time and resources to support service members in more austere locations who ultimately look to this location for their support."

Medical staff at Camp Lemonnier expressed great interest in the various methods of providing Virtual Health within the region, the implication in improving health care delivery, and a potential reduction in the number of MEDEVACS for patients, even in austere environments. In 2018, nearly 14,000 mission days were saved for Africa, Europe, and Middle East combatant commanders through the utilization of Virtual Health options over in-person travel.

The Regional Command Health-Europe Virtual Health solutions provide digital health care delivery between 165-plus providers across 38 specialties to patients in garrison, operational, and remote settings on three continents serving Army, Air Force, Navy, NATO, Defense Logistics Agency, and Department of State service and family members.

"The benefits of these capabilities really allow for better conversations to happen, perhaps prior to a patient being evacuated, and better management of patient care," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Todd Hall, the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Virtual Health Europe.

In a global organization like the armed forces, connected coordinated care options are becoming even more crucial to ensuring the readiness of Active Duty Service Members. Virtual Health is not only about making health care more convenient, it allows for increased access to care and enables a greater focus on the military’s most important asset – its people.

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