March 25, 2014, WASHINGTON (AFNS) – The Air Force has recently completed implementation of its secure healthcare-messaging system, MiCare, to all 76 of its medical treatment facilities worldwide.
As of March 1, more than 360,000 Air Force healthcare beneficiaries and 2,300 providers have signed up for this service, which allows the patient and provider to communicate on a secure network regarding non-urgent healthcare concerns.
The MiCare network also allows beneficiaries to view their healthcare record, make appointments, fill prescriptions and allows providers to push important preventative care updates to the members.
Overall, Airmen, their families and beneficiaries using MiCare can expect a decrease in trips to the MTF and more personal communication with their healthcare team.
What’s happening with MiCare at the MTFs?
“At the beginning of MiCare’s deployment, MTFs were instructed to have 25 percent of beneficiaries empaneled by three months and 50 percent within a year,” said Maria Faison, a Nurse Informatics, MiCare project manager with the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. “However, we have had many MTFs surpass this goal within a couple months because the portal’s processes are now updated to allow users to E-register and be transferred more easily between MTFs during PCS season.”
Many MTFs have been using creative marketing ideas to inform their beneficiaries about MiCare and the many reasons why they should be using it. Clinics have been placing posters at facilities, updating their waiting room videos to include MiCare information, and some are even creating videos for use on social media.
Although many MTF’s MiCare programs have not been up and running until recently, a few bases currently leading in participation are Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, with 63 percent of patients, followed closely by Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Robins AFB, Ga.; and Maxwell AFB, Ala. The Pentagon has just crossed more than 50 percent participation in the program.
“These bases have had the support of leadership and are utilizing high performance teams from within to constantly monitor their progress and improve local practices to make MiCare a more effective system,” Faison said.
How does MiCare compare with others?
Although they use a different name for their secure messaging system, both the Army and Navy have made considerable progress signing up users. Both sister services have enrolled roughly 523,000 users combined, as of Feb. 28. This joint venture has more than 850,000 combined users through all services, as well as 7,600 providers and more than 17,500 primary care team members using the system.
The civilian sector is also moving toward offering more patient portals since this service will assist their beneficiaries to make smart non-urgent care decisions rather than sitting in a waiting room or going to an urgent care facility.
“So far, everyone is hitting the same roadblocks on trying to increase participation further where there is reluctance to trust new technology,” said Col. Gwendolyn Johnson, the deputy for Clinical and Business Analysis Division and a MiCare project lead. “The best tools to breaking the barrier are through education and internal marketing. If the staff can realize how MiCare can empower and engage our patients, then their enthusiasm will show and increase more patient enrollment.”
A recent secure messaging satisfaction survey demonstrated that 97 percent of more than 13,000 survey respondents were satisfied with their secure messaging transaction and more than 86 percent agreed it helped them avoid a trip to an emergency room or an MTF for a medical problem.