Secure Messaging offers patients online medical care options

by Chuck Roberts
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs

Think of Secure Messaging Service as a house call from your family doctor, but without having to worry about tidying up the house before he arrives.

Ironically, technology is bringing back a version of patient friendly old-world medicine through the simple use of secure e-mails with your Army health care team.

Certain types of medical care that require a visit to your primary care manager can now be accomplished by e-mail for beneficiaries registered with Secure Messaging, including:
» Consulting with your medical team about non-urgent health matters
» Requesting appointments and referrals
» Requesting prescription renewals
» Receiving test and laboratory results
» Receiving guidance from your medical team by e-mail

Secure Messaging is currently being introduced at primary care clinics at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and at U.S. Army Health Clinic Kaiserslautern. Primary care clinics include family practice, internal medicine and the pediatric clinic.

To sign up for Secure Messaging, beneficiaries can provide their personal e-mail at their respective primary care clinic. They will then receive an e-mail invitation to join the service the same day. In the coming months, Secure Messaging will be available at all LRMC clinics in Belgium, Germany and Italy.

Although new to Army medicine in Europe, Secure Messaging is currently in use by more than 2,000 military and civilian medical providers from more than 50 sites in the U.S., accounting for more than 210,000 patient messages over the past six months.

Although beneficiaries receive a personal e-mail letting them know they have information awaiting them on Secure Messaging, they use a personal password to log into the Secure Messaging site. The secure site, contracted through Relay Health, is in compliance with the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and stringently protects your personal information through encryption technology. Your information is only accessible by you and your health care team.

Secure Messaging is also a valuable tool for clinics and doctors to communicate with patients and to remind them of preventive services. Clinics can easily send reminders about immunizations, screening such as Well Baby Visits, medication recalls and flu vaccine availability.

An example of a typical patient message through Secure Messaging would be a mother concerned about her child who wakes up with a rash on her stomach. Instead of taking her child to the emergency room or trying to schedule a medical appointment, the mother could communicate through Secure Messaging with a nurse or doctor for advice on treating her child at home and/or bringing them in for a medical appointment.

Secure Messaging is popular with both beneficiaries and medical staffers because of its usefulness and efficiency.

“Secure Messaging is a win-win for everyone,” said Gregory Milliger, a health care consultant at LRMC.  “The patient can communicate with their care team between scheduled clinic visits without having to go into the clinic. The civilian health care delivery sector adopted this concept about five years ago and it had an immediate impact on how doctors interacted with their patients. Communicating with patients between clinic visits allows doctors to focus on the patient’s health and not just their health care.”