Virtual appointments are now available for members of MacDill

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- On June 1, 2017, the Air Force introduced a brand new system allowing patients to have medical appointments virtually.

“What we mean by virtually, is that clients can now have a non-face-to-face encounter with a credentialed provider using a cell or land line phone to address the patient’s healthcare needs,” said James Bernard, the 6th Medical Group practice manager.

Now, scheduled virtual appointments are intertwined with providers’ normal face-to-face appointments throughout the day. This means providers are able to assist patients by phone in between their in-person appointments.

“The goal is to increase patients’ access to providers by giving them other options of attaining medical care,” added Staff Sgt. Bernice Ortiz, the medical office manager assigned to the 6th Medical Operations Squadron.

According to Ortiz and Bernard, a few examples of the current virtual appointments clients could come across at MacDill are: physical health assessments, medication follow-up care, follow-ups on laboratory and radiology results, emergency follow-ups, and some mental health screenings.
Having this new system available to patients provides flexibility and convenience.

“Instead of patients needing to leave work, school or family to commute to the MDG, they can simply excuse themselves for a short (10 minute) phone call,” said Bernard. “By not having in-clinic appointments, patients also lower their risk and their family’s risk of exposure to common acute illnesses that are easily spread throughout clinics.”

Not only does this system seem ideal for clients, providers also benefit from virtual appointments.

“By addressing the appropriate needs of patients virtually, it allows staff members to reallocate their time to accommodate their demanding schedules,” said Bernard.

In order for a client to be eligible for a virtual appointment, a provider must identify a patient as better suited for a virtual appointment versus a face-to-face visit.

“Once a booking clerk, technician, or nurse determines the needs of a patient could be met through a virtual appointment, the patient will be informed that the provider will contact them via phone,” mentioned Ortiz. “It’s important for the patient to understand the difference in appointments because when they show up at the clinic for what is scheduled as a virtual appointment, it could possibly delay the care they and other scheduled patients receive.”

Clients desiring to schedule a virtual appointment are encouraged to contact a booking clerk.

The 6th MDG is excited to offer this new level of care, but in order to ensure virtual appointments are a success, we encourage patients to make sure their phone numbers are up to date and correct in our system through https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/ or clients can also call the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) at 800-538-9552.

“The use of virtual appointments by phone is an effective way of optimizing the delivery of care, however, this is just the beginning,” said Bernard. “In the near future, virtual visits will be available on a desktop video teleconference platform to the patient’s web enabled personal device!”