Telehealth Helps Screen Deployed Soldiers for TBI

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Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen Patricia Horoho announced this week that a pilot program to bring telehealth centers to deployed soldiers across Afghanistan had been completed and now provides routine medical screenings to soldiers in remote outposts by connecting them with physicians and mental health professionals in the rear.

The program began in 2010 when four telehealth sites were opened with the goal of reducing instances of undiagnosed Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, two of the most common combat related medical conditions. Since then, it has evolved into a country-wide initiative with 87 remote telehealth centers.

Soldiers reported feeling comfortable discussing medical conditions remotely, but indicated that face to face interaction would improve the experience overall. Lack of personal connection is a commonly raised concern with widespread use of telehealth systems.

The Army is looking at additional ways of detecting and treating TBI earlier for deployed soldiers and is moving forward with a plan to develop a smartphone app that will assess TBI symptoms in the field. In September, the development project for the app was awarded to BrainScope of Bethesda, MD for 2.8 million dollars.

The Army reported in 2010 that it views smartphones as a significant combat multiplier and determined that each soldier would be issued one as a tool for combat deployments. Moving forward with mission specific app development is a logical progression down this strategic path for the Army.

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