Tele-Behavioral Health (TBH) enables Army Medicine to deliver clinical Behavioral Health (BH) services at a distance via electronic communications. Sometimes called telemedicine, mHealth, e-care, or telecare, the term “telehealth” (TH) covers a variety of clinical services provided using telecommunications and related technologies. As applied to the MEDCOM, TBH usually refers to a provider at a distant location evaluating and treating a patient at their local installation via secure clinical video-teleconferencing (VTC) systems. TBH can also be used for consultations between providers, as well as provider and patient education.
TBH enhances access to care and readiness by extending the reach of BH providers, virtually, to geographic areas with a shortage of provider resources. This enables the MEDCOM to cross level clinical capacity across Army-DoD installations and thereby support deployment-related surges and unforeseen requirements; offer services to geographic areas that have limited clinical capacity; and create options for meeting access to care standards. Additionally, TBH enables Soldiers and their Families to receive treatment close to home. It may also reduce stigma sometimes associated with BH by creating access to providers that are geographically separate from local facilities and, therefore, do not have interaction with patients outside of the encounter.
Army TH is a global leader in providing innovative and comprehensive TH services, offering clinical services across the largest geographic area of any TH system in the world. Outreach currently spans 19 time zones and over 30 countries and territories, including coverage in all 5 Regional Medical Commands and the current operational environments. Over 2,000 portable VTC systems have been deployed to support BH providers globally, leading to a recent increase in patient and provider VTC-capable endpoints.
Overall, in CY12, Army TH provided over 37,000 provider-to-patient encounters and provider-to-provider consultations in garrison, excluding radiology, secure messaging, and education. This represents approximately 750% growth since 2009. TBH accounts for over 80% of Army TH encounters and a substantial portion of this dramatic growth.
Army TH and TBH offers services across a variety of interoperable technologies such as fixed and portable VTCs and associated peripherals, mobile platforms, and picture archiving and communications systems. Future plans include delivering TBH services (HIPAA & PHI-compliant) using smartphones.