Pentagon Asks for Ideas on Building a Universal Telehealth Network

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That includes looking at tech that connects patients with providers.

The Pentagon’s health office wants industry to weigh in on ways to make the military’s telehealth services more consistently available across its worldwide treatment facilities.

The Defense Health Agency on Thursday asked for industry’s best ideas for connecting the agency’s scattered telehealth services into a central virtual health program while building new capabilities into the system. Responses will inform the agency’s long-term acquisition decisions under its telehealth strategic plan.

Telehealth services give more patients access to quality treatment while cutting costs and reducing the number of specialists needed at each military medical facility, DHA said in a post on FedBizOpps. But today, “providers and beneficiaries only have access to services and tools that are too often a function of the military treatment facility location, [military health system] region and component in which they are located.”

Through the initiative, DHA aims to give its millions of patients access to a fully array of telehealth services through a “user-friendly, globally connected, image-enabled” network that’s interoperable with existing MHS systems.

The agency said industry responses should include broad technology approaches for the program, methods for integrating new tools into existing MHS platforms and strategies for managing telehealth operations. DHA is also looking for individual technologies that connect patients to providers across “the entire care spectrum,” from their homes to any place the department offers health care.

The agency outlined specifications for a handful of initiatives where potential contractors would focus their efforts. Among the program’s primary initiatives is a global teleconsultations portal where patients can meet with specialists, and systems to enable virtual patient visits and remote monitoring.

DHA’s request comes weeks after the ill-fated pilot of the Pentagon’s next-generation electronic health records system. Initial tests determined the MHS Genesis platform, built under a $4.3 billion contract with Cerner Corp., “is neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.”

It remains unclear whether the setbacks will delay the system’s rollout, but according to the post, DHA would require telehealth vendors to integrate their services within the department’s EHR platform.