Tripler’s ‘PATH’ provides virtual physician help

| July 26, 2014 | 0 Comments
Lt. Col. Christopher Mahnke, director,  PATH, TAMC, demonstrates how to navigate through the PATH system that is used to communicate between providers of the Western Pacific Region, recently.

Lt. Col. Christopher Mahnke, director, PATH, TAMC, demonstrates how to navigate through the PATH system that is used to communicate between providers of the Western Pacific Region, recently.

Story and photo by
Spc. Paxton Busch
Pacific Regional Medical Command
HONOLULU — Tripler Army Medical Center and Pacific Regional Medical Command are sharing telemedicine technology with Navy Medical East (NME) to enhance patient care.

TAMC developed the Pacific Asynchronous TeleHealth (PATH) system to provide virtual specialty physician support to areas within the Western Pacific region, including Japan, South Korea and Guam where access to medical and surgical specialists is limited.

The PATH system is a Web-based, secure telemedicine platform hosted at TAMC since 2004 that enables remote providers to submit patient demographics, clinical data and supplementary multimedia to TAMC, the only DOD tertiary care facility in the Pacific region, where they will be screened by physician managers and forwarded to the appropriate specialists.

PATH also manages all patient movement to TAMC for complex diagnosis and treatment.

In June 2014, the PATH Team partnered with Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) to establish their own virtual specialty consultation system, called Health Experts onLine at Portsmouth (HELP).  Hosted at TAMC, the HELP system will connect physicians within NME to the specialty experts at NMCP.

The NME region spans 10 time zones, making real-time teleconsultation impractical.
“The HELP system allows input of the medical history and physical symptoms of the patient, the medications they are on and the consult question,” said Cmdr. Andrew Lin, the HELP director. “Providers can also upload media files, like pictures, X-rays or sound files.

“Once the consult is added to the system,” Lin continued, “it comes to a consult manager at NMCP, who decides which specialty expert can best assist, and then the specialist suggests a course of treatment based on the case presented.”

TAMC PATH Director Lt. Col. C. Becket Mahnke said both PATH and HELP are simple and inexpensive technologies that work well for providers in different time zones seeking consultation on nonemergency cases.

“I think it will be important for Navy Medicine East. We’ve found that two-thirds of the clinical questions in PATH can be answered quickly and without that face-to-face visit with the specialist,” stated Mahnke, adding that 97 percent of consults are answered within a week.

According to Mahnke, PATH also has a track record for cutting costs and is hopeful that the Navy sees the same success. A review of 1,000 pediatric teleconsultations conducted in 2011 showed an annual cost reduction of $200,000 by preventing unnecessary air evacuations and face-to-face consultations.

This year, Mahnke received the General Maxwell R. Thurman Award for Excellence in Telemedicine and Advanced Medical Technology for his achievements with the PATH system and advancement of telemedicine/telehealth.

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