Filling the Gaps in the Pandemic Response: Impact of COVID-19 on Telehealth in the Military Health System

Vivitha Mani*, Alysa Pomer, Cathaleen Madsen, Christian L. Coles, Andrew J. Schoenfeld, Joel S. Weissman, Tracey Pèrez Koehlmoos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth use became widespread, allowing for continued health care while minimizing COVID-19 transmission risk for patients and providers. This rapid scale-up highlighted shortcomings of the current telehealth infrastructure in many health systems. We aimed to identify and address gaps in the United States Military Health System (MHS) response to the COVID-19 pandemic related to the implementation and utilization of telehealth. Methods: We conducted semistructured key informant interviews of MHS stakeholders, including policymakers, program managers, and health care providers. We recruited respondents using purposive and snowball sampling until we reached thematic saturation. Interviews were conducted virtually from December 2022 to March 2023 and coded by deductive thematic analysis using NVivo. Results: We interviewed 28 key informants. Several themes emerged from the interviews and were categorized into four defined areas of obstacles to the effective utilization of telehealth: administrative, technical, organizational, and quality issues. While respondents had positive perceptions of telehealth, issues such as billing, licensure portability, network connectivity and technology, and ability to monitor health outcomes represent major barriers in the current system, preventing the potential for further expansion. Conclusions: While the shift to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated robust potential within the MHS, it highlighted shortcomings that impair the utility and expansion of telehealth on a level comparable to that of other large health systems. Future focus should be directed toward generating and implementing actionable recommendations that target these identified challenges in the MHS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1443-1449
Number of pages7
JournalTelemedicine and e-Health
Volume30
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • health systems
  • military health system
  • telehealth
  • telemedicine

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