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Training to use deployed Electronic Health Records is out there

Electronic health records to enable medical Airmen to treat those who are wounded while deployed in a harsh or isolated environment.

Electronic health records to enable medical Airmen to treat those who are wounded while deployed in a harsh or isolated environment.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- The Air Force Medical Service is developing an Electronic Health Record that will enable medical Airmen to treat those who are wounded while deployed in a harsh or isolated environment. 
 

Electronic Health Records track Airmen’s medical needs and document real-time data at every point of the Airman’s journey from when the injury occurred, to anything that happened in transit, to the treatment received at the hospital or clinic.

The Theater Medical Information Program – Air Force project management office at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama, currently tests, updates and trains the Deployed EHR for the AFMS, called Armed Forces Longitudinal Technology Application – Theater. It’s used in the back of aeromedical evacuation aircraft, staging and receiving facilities and many deployed locations.

There is a significant gap, however, between successfully training Airmen on the use of this application and providing the operating system to deployed medics, even though this system currently provides the best method of creating a consistent EHR for patients.

“Say a patient is hurt in the field and being transported to a hospital in Germany. When we transmit their records, the medical staff on the ground can see it before the patient ever gets off the plane. It makes them better equipped to treat the new patient,” said Darrell Mayers, a functional analyst for TMIP-AF. “From a patient safety standpoint, continuity of care is a major piece. We’re making sure we get everyone using the EHR trained.”

EHRs are important not just because they’re mandated by Congress, but because they further goals of patient care and positive patient outcomes, so ensuring Airmen are trained to use them properly is a top goal.  “We have a qualified team of medical functional experts available to train medical folks on AHLTA-T, so they are ready to support the patient on the ground or the back of an aircraft.  All commanders and training point of contacts have to do is reach out to our team and we can set up pre-deployed training for just about any AFMS specialty before they deploy,” said Dolores Osborne-Hensley, the TMIP-AF Program Manager.

“We should never have an Airman deployed without the right training,” said Master Sgt. Cheryl Chowning, the lead functional 4N for TMIP-AF. “We want to close that loop. This is especially important when sending our system administration medics out in the field to provide support for the AHLTA-T systems.”

Pre-deployment training, catching medical Airmen at just the right time, is a big issue for the AHLTA-T application. The knowledge for this system is a perishable skill that requires practice and repetitive use, and experienced skills are crucial to the success of quality documenting of electronic medical records. Osborne-Hensley said, “We try to go to the continuously deploying bases at least twice a year to train as many Airmen as possible. We always stand ready to train but knowing who, what, and where the training needs are is the real issue.”

The training course offered by the TMIP-AF is a three-day course. System administrators learn every aspect of the applications based on their location. They manage the software’s connectivity, manage the components that transmit records, and learn how to troubleshoot problems. By the time the course is over they’re able to properly configure, maintain and sustain the system.

It’s impossible to know when and where someone might get injured, and Airmen work in dozens of different and unusual environments all over the world, which makes proper training that much more important.

“Ask the medical staff when you don’t have any connectivity in the back of an airplane, or the doctor in a deployed environment who can’t use his AHLTA-T system. They need to know the process of using and transmitting the EHR when they land and once they gain network connectivity,” said Staff Sgt. Laveonne Jones, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Systems Administration.

Mayers added that since they started transmitting medical records in 2011, they’ve pushed more than 500,000 ground based electronic medical records. He said while that’s a remarkable achievement, it’s only a fraction of what they could be doing in the future, and the training they provide will be more important than ever.