Early Analysis of the United States Army’s Telemedicine Orthopaedic Consultation Program


Telemedicine is a recent development, designed to assist patients with limited physical access to expert subspecialty medical care. The United States Army has established a telemedicine program, consisting of e-mail consultations from deployed health care providers to subspecialty consultants. Orthopaedic surgery became a participating consultant group in July 2007. The goal of this study is to describe the Army’s telemedicine orthopaedic program and to review its progress and achievements. All consults initiated from July 2007 through April 2009 were reviewed. A total of 208 consults were received by the telemedicine orthopaedic consultation program. Predominant regions of origin were Iraq, Navy Afloat, and Afghanistan. The Army accounted for the majority of consults. Prevalent musculoskeletal complaints were fracture, sprain, neuropathy, and tendon injury. Of the 74 fracture consultations, hand and wrist fractures were most common. Symptomatic treatment or casting/splinting were the most common recommended treatments for all orthopaedic consults. Of the 170 consults requesting specific treatment recommendations for patients who likely otherwise would have been evacuated for further evaluation, surgical intervention or medical evacuation was only recommended in 25% and 16% of the consultations, respectively. The novel Army telemedicine orthopaedic consultation program developed for combat-deployed service members provides expert treatment recommendations for a variety of musculoskeletal injuries. Deployed health care providers located in austere combat environments can better determine both the necessity of medical evacuation and appropriate treatments for service members with musculoskeletal injuries when aided by orthopaedic surgery consultants, thereby limiting the number of unnecessary medical evacuations. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 20(1):50–55, 2011)

CPT Elizabeth Blank, MD, Charles Lappan, MS, LTC Philip J. Belmont, Jr., MD,
COL M. Shaun Machen, MD, COL James Ficke, MD, LTC Richard Pope, MD,
and LTC Brett D. Owens, MD