Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River’s (NHCPR) telepsychiatry program, in partnership with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), utilizes secure video teleconferencing technology to virtually connect service members to psychiatric providers at WRNMMC.
Suicide continues to be a significant public health concern in the military. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the military services reported 76 deaths by suicide in the Active Component, 20 deaths in the Reserves, and 30 deaths in the National Guard, according to the Department of Defense Quarterly Suicide Report.
These staggering numbers underscore the point that quality and accessible psychiatric care is essential to the fitness and readiness of the armed forces. Additionally, psychiatric services for those stationed in rural areas are not always readily accessible.
Previously, NHCPR — a small ambulatory care clinic — did not have the resources to provide on-site psychiatry services, so active duty personnel in need of psychiatric treatment were routinely referred to distant military treatment facilities (MTFs) and/or to local network civilian psychiatrists.
With a roundtrip driving distance from Patuxent River to WRNMMC at over 160 miles, and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and Malcolm Grow Medical Clinic approaching 140 and 100 miles, respectively, Pax River service members were often forced to take off full days from work for psychiatry appointments due to lengthy travel times. Service members referred to local network civilian providers experienced extensive wait times that often approached two months for initial evaluations. The lack of availability and accessibility of psychiatric services significantly delayed care, increased costs associated with travel and network visits, and decreased manpower and work productivity.
Through the telepsychiatry program — implemented in June 2016 — NHCPR now offers approximately 20 weekly virtual psychiatry appointments for active duty (AD) service members and 150 AD patients are currently enrolled in the program. This initiative has saved approximately 1,000 man-hours and an estimated $7,270 in patient travel costs.
To date, the number of AD patient in-person visits to network and distant MTFs has been reduced by more than 50 percent. With a 100 percent appointment show rate, this program has increased…