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Partners in Health

By Lt. Col. Christine Smetana, commander | 628th Medical Operations Squadron | May 16, 2018

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —

One of the polarizing topics in recent years has been whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. Regardless of your stance on this issue, access to quality healthcare can mean the difference between life or death. In the military, every member is provided healthcare. However, it is up to the individual to take full advantage of this benefit. The most effective way to capitalize on this is by being an active participant in your health.

As with most things in life, communication plays a pivotal role in a patient’s interaction with the healthcare system. However, this communication is often unintentionally thwarted by medical terminology. Add medical acronyms to military acronyms and you may be tempted to throw your hands up in defeat. But don’t give up! Doctors don’t intend to use confusing terms, so if you don’t understand something, let them know. The National Patient Safety Foundation’s “Ask Me 3” campaign encourages patients to ask and understand the answers to three basic questions at each healthcare visit:

1. What is my main problem?

2. What do I need to do?

3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Another critical component that strengthens the patient-provider partnership is knowledge. It goes without saying that the provider must be knowledgeable regarding medicine. However, to get the most out of their encounter, the patient also has a responsibility for providing knowledge about themselves. It is vital that you know the names and dosages of the medications you are taking as well as your basic medical conditions. While you may assume that the electronic medical record contains all of this information, often the information is not easily accessible or the system does not connect with civilian pharmacies or medical offices, which makes it difficult to piece together an accurate medical history and medication list. Additionally, you are most knowledgeable about your goals, expectations and what changes you are willing to make. Communicating this information to the provider will assist in the formulation of a plan of care that addresses the goals of both parties, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Finally, patients need the ability to contact their healthcare team to obtain information about their individual health. Several military-specific resources exist to bridge this gap:

1. TRICARE Online (TOL): www.tricareonline.com

The system allows you to book primary care and wellness appointments (and sends email/text reminders of appointments), request medication refills and review your labs/imaging results, among other features.

2. Secure Messaging: https://app.mil.relayhealth.com

The main function of this system is to improve communication with your provider team. Instead of calling, leaving a message and waiting for a call back, you can type a message to your provider team. Your team will then type a message in reply and the system will notify you, via email, that you have a message waiting on the system. This allows you to view the message at your convenience and prevents long games of telephone tag. The system also has a patient education module that allows you to view and print out handouts on many common medical conditions.

3. MyIMR: https://imr.afms.mil/imr/myIMR.aspx

This system provides you an overview of your Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) status. It is also the site from which you complete your annual Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) questionnaire.

Gone are the days when the doctor dictates care and the patient robotically complies. Both you and your provider play vital roles in your health. Partner with your provider to optimize your health!