Navy’s Tele-Orthopedic Visits

Cmdr. Joe Carney Division Head for the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) Complex Surgical Sports Team, sat in his office as he examined his patient, a 29 year old Army Officer suffering from a Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI).

FAI is a painful condition affecting a person’s hip joint that can sometimes be remedied by arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgical procedure where Carney would access the joint using an arthroscope inserted through a small incision. The goal was to determine whether the Army officer would be a viable candidate for the procedure.

While Carney performs about three to four of these types of consults per month, this particular encounter was unique because his patient was 6,000 miles away on the small Pacific Island of Guam at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam (NHG)

This tele-orthopedic visit took place using technology and support from the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) communications network, according to the virtual health program manager at Navy Medicine West NMW). NMW oversees the Navy’s healthcare system in the western U.S. western Pacific and cares for over 675,000 beneficiaries.

The video teleconferencing visit was equipped with a small cylindrical camera atop a computer monitor. This enabled Carney and the patient to view and talk to each other in real time using secure channels guaranteeing patient privacy.

The technology makes it possible to display x-rays, MRIs, and other information which is visible to patients and providers at both locations. After being examined, it turned out that the Army officer was a viable candidate for arthroscopic surgery

Currently, the ability to conduct tele-orthopedic consultations exists only between NHG and NMCSD, but the hope is expand the capability to other Navy medical facilities such as the Naval Hospital Okinawa, Japan, and Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan.

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