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Military Health Adapts Care Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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U.S. Army
Wednesday, April 08, 2020

From virtual appointments to hiring more nurses to staff a 24/7 advice line, the Military Health System is working to meet patients’ needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The system’s Nurse Advice Line received a record 10,427 calls in a 24-hour period—a more than 400% increase—in mid-March, according to a memo from the Defense Health Agency.

On average, the phone line received about 2,000 calls per day in the past year, but the volume began to increase in March as more COVID-19 cases emerged across the country. More registered nurses were hired to help with the increased demand.

Secure messaging between health care teams and patients, which promises a response in 24 hours or less, also saw a significant jump in March compared to this time last year. Messaging was up more than 2,900% from a year ago, DHA says.

As part of the military’s overall response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, DHA encouraged providers to move any routine or follow-up appointments to telephone visits, and officials recently approved the use of FaceTime, Google Duo and Skype for providers to “enhance their visual assessment,” the memo says.

“To that end, the number of visits we are providing in direct care at our [military treatment facilities] has not changed, compared to February 2020—and that is largely because we are delivering more care virtually,” DHA says.

As of March 30, more than 35% of primary and 5% of specialty care appointments were done virtually—which are significant increases over February.

To reach the Nurse Advice Line, call 1-800-TRICARE (1-800-874-2273) and select option 1.

Click here for more information on MHS’ response to COVID-19.