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Infectious Disease Teleconsultation to the Deployed U.S. Military From 2017-2022.

Military Medicine 2022 October 18
INTRODUCTION: The ADvanced VIrtual Support for OpeRational Forces (ADVISOR) program is a synchronous telemedicine system developed in 2017 to provide 24/7 remote expert support to U.S. Military and NATO clinicians engaged in medical care in austere locations. Infectious disease (ID) remains the highest consulted service since 2018 and is currently staffed by 10 adult and pediatric ID physicians within the Military Health System. We conducted a retrospective review of the ID ADVISOR calls between 2017 and 2022 to identify trends and better prepare military ID physicians to address urgent ID consultations in overseas settings.

METHODS: Health records of the ID consultations between July 2017 and January 2022 were reviewed for local caregiver and patient demographics, case descriptions, consultant recommendations, and outcomes. A "not research" determination was made by the Brooke Army Medical Center Human Research Protections Office.

RESULTS: ID physicians received 57 calls for 60 urgent patient consultations. Most calls were from countries in the Middle East or in Southwest Asia (United States Central Command (USCENTCOM)), followed by countries in Africa (United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM)). The majority of patients were active duty U.S. Military and were generally male with median age of 25 years. All consults involved an initial phone consultation and 30% continued over email. Ninety percent of the calls were initiated by physicians, and the median time from injury or illness-onset to consult was 3 days. Seventy percent of the consult questions involved treatment and further diagnostics, but one-third of cases required assistance with management of disease prevention. Multidrug-resistant or nosocomial infections, animal or bite exposure, malaria and malaria prevention, febrile illness, and blood-borne pathogen exposure accounted for 63% of the consults. Collaboration with other specialties took place in a minority of cases, and follow-up contact was recommended 20% of the time. Most recommendations involved adjusting drug regimens or further testing. Medical evacuation was only recommended in five of the cases. Although there was limited ability for follow-up, no known deaths occurred.

CONCLUSIONS: A high proportion of calls to the ID ADVISOR line are relevant to the overlapping content areas of infection prevention, force protection, and outbreak response. Most patients requiring urgent ID consultation were managed successfully without evacuation. The current military-unique ID fellowship curriculum is consistent with the encountered diagnoses per the ID ADVISOR line, and high-yield individual topics have been identified.

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