For Greene County News
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series focusing on the wide-range of medical support provided at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center. Top-quality healthcare services are provided here to Airmen and other eligible recipients by caring professionals who understand the needs of a military community and their families.
FAIRBORN — The Emergency Department (ED) at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center is staffed by a team of well-trained medical professionals who stand ready to deal with more than the typical runny nose, fever, or sprained ankle someone might be suffering from when walking through the automatic doors of the ER.
Staffed by just fewer than 100 military, Air Force civilian, and contractor personnel, the Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to treat potentially life-threatening emergencies. Patients are promptly seen based on the severity of their illness or injury to include loss of life, limb or eyesight. The staff is organized into four elements-two day shift crews, and two night shift crews, both operating on 12-hour shifts.
“Although we don’t see a lot of what would be classified as true emergencies in our ED, we have the capability to stabilize trauma should it come through our door,” Maj. Michelle Dimoff, Emergency Services Flight Commander said. “If we should see a heart attack patient that requires cardiac catheterization or a stroke patient that requires a Neuro Intensive Care Unit, we will stabilize them and transfer them to a higher level of care,” said Dimoff, who was recently assigned here after completing a four-year tour of duty at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
“I see the Emergency Department as the gateway to the medical center,” she said, adding that she sees the role of the ED expanding as the medical center continues to accept more and more veterans who are eligible to receive care at the facility, although the medical center would not turn anyone away who needed life-saving emergency assistance.
Dimoff emphasized this is a good thing in that it provides more training opportunities for the military staff members to prepare for forward deployment.
The Emergency Department features 12 monitored beds for advanced life support and three “fast-track,” or urgent care beds for patients with less serious conditions. If a situation arose where the ED had to surge in the number of patients seen, up to five more patients could be taken care of using beds placed in the hallways. Overall, the ED staff provides advanced life support coverage for all personnel assigned to both Areas A and B at Wright-Patterson AFB, and has an annual census of approximately 22,000 patients seen.
Getting to patients who need medical support quickly at any location on base is the job of the Emergency Department’s 10 paramedics using up to five assigned ambulances. Crews are commonly assigned to provide medical coverage to major special events held on base such as the AFMC Freedom’s Call Tattoo; Air Force Marathon; Senior Leader Conferences; CORONA; and Run for the Fallen, among others.
While most people hope they never have to visit the ED in an emergency situation, the Family Health Clinic provides services that are common in the daily lives of most people. In fact, the clinic has approximately 22,300 enrolled patients, and on average, the providers here see 50,000 appointments annually. This figure is almost doubled with the clinic’s additional 43,000 annual telephone consults for a total of about 93,000 patient encounters a year. All patients seen at the Family Health Clinic are 18 years or older because younger patients are seen at the Pediatric Clinic. It takes a lot of organization, outstanding teamwork, and excellent leadership to make this all happen.
Leading the way at the Family Health Clinic are Lt. Col. Amy Kinnon, Family Health Flight Commander and MSgt. Jason Herndon, Flight Chief. All together, they are a 94-member flight, making them the third largest and busiest Family Health Flight in the Air Force based on patient enrollment. Statistics also show they are the highest acuity Family Health Clinic, meaning some of the most complex medical patients are taken care of here at Wright-Patterson Medical Center. Physical space constraints at the medical center dictate the flight be divided into two geographically separated elements, but they all perform as one team.
“The primary mission of the Family Health Clinic is to maintain a healthy, ready, fighting force that’s ready to deploy, but we’re kind of unique in the aspect of our patient demographic as compared to other military medical facilities. We’re probably closer to a 76 percent retiree and family member population and 24 percent active duty,” said Herndon.
According to Kinnon, retirees often choose to receive healthcare services at the Family Health Clinic instead of off-base providers because they receive high quality health care that enables patients to achieve a better health state. “We use the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model-this is a whole person concept where the patient is an integral part of the care team and the patient is an active participant in their healthcare process. PCMH is a system of care in which a team of health professionals work together with the patients to achieve a better health state,” said Kinnon. “Our enrollees love being seen by our providers, they love coming back to the community of a military facility. They feel that we listen to what is truly going on with them. We can relate better to what has gone on in their lives.”
“When I have asked our civilian providers, technicians, and nurses why they choose to work at a Military Treatment Facility, the answer is because of the respect that we have for each other. That respect reinforces the Air Force Core Values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. It drives how we carry ourselves, how we treat our patients, and how we treat each other.”
The Family Health Clinic has officially implemented a new staffing model called “Super Teams,” which include one physician, two midlevel providers (either a Physician Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner), two registered nurses, five medical technicians, and one administrative support technician caring for 3,750 patients. Beginning in October, the Family Health Clinic will be one of 11 test locations in the Air Force to embed an advanced practice pharmacist into the healthcare setting. This pharmacist will have scheduled appointments with patients who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or asthma, among others. This complements the existing support services provided by the Behavioral Healthcare provider and the Disease Management nurses.
Patients have several options available to help them be more involved in their own health care. One great way for a patient to communicate directly with their health care team is through secure messaging, which is an online, confidential system that provides a direct link to their primary care team. This preferred method of communication is available through the MiCare portal. MiCare uses Relay-Health, a web-based portal that protects personal health information more securely than either telephone or e-mail. Patients can use MiCare to request prescription renewals, receive results, request appointments, and ask for advice about non-urgent symptoms. It’s simple to get a MiCare account and the easy process begins with a face to face request at the clinic front desk to confirm identity and contact information using a short enrollment form. In MiCare, patients can easily access education handouts for blood pressure, cholesterol management, diabetes, medications and home care advice.
Additionally, TRICARE online (www.tricareonline.com) can be used to make appointments, request available refills on current prescriptions and view lab test results. Patients can also call the Tricare Nurse Advice Line at 800-874-2273 anytime to get assistance with urgent healthcare questions, including guidance as to whether they need immediate medical care, make an appointment with a physician for a later time or treat themselves at home. A caller’s Tricare eligibility for using the system will be verified by a representative before being transferred to a registered nurse. A team of registered nurses uses Evidence Based Practice Protocols to triage the patient over the phone and provide the home care advice and/or an appointment, even sending the patient to an ER to be seen quickly.
“This is a very dedicated, hard-working team at our clinic,” Herndon said. “They will do anything and everything they can to address the needs of our patients. They care about getting our patients to a better health state.”
Story courtesy of Bryan Ripple, 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.