TRICARE Online Promises Easier, Faster Service to Prime, Plus Patients
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2002 TRICARE Prime and Plus beneficiaries have a new tool that makes getting doctor's appointments and health care information as easy as clicking a mouse.
TRICARE Online at www.tricareonline.com is DoD's first effort at using the Internet to reach out and touch patients across the entire military health system, according to Navy Dr. (Capt.) Brian Kelly, E-Business director of the TRICARE Management Activity in Falls Church, Va.
More than 4,000 TRICARE patients have made routine appointments using www.tricareonline.com since testing began in June 2001, he said. The initial test installations were Andrews Air Force Base, Md.; Rader Clinic, Fort Myer, Va.; and Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
"We're currently at 92 facilities in the Washington, D.C., area; Region 9, Southern California; Region 11, Washington state, Oregon and northern Idaho; and Central Europe," Kelly said. "We hope to be worldwide everywhere by the end of April 2003."
Kelly said anyone with a Web browser can surf the site, but only TRICARE Prime and Plus beneficiaries in the serviced areas are currently able to use the site to make appointments with primary health care providers. The Web site features a 30- to 40-day calendar showing patients all available appointments with their primary care manager or the manager's team members where they're enrolled.
"Then it's as simple as clicking on the appointment they want," he said.
Beneficiaries must set up a password-protected personal account on the site to take full advantage of TRICARE Online's power, he said.
"Once they do that, we know who the beneficiaries are and in which facilities they're enrolled," Kelly said. "We can then tailor the site to them. They'll have access to a personal health journal, where they can record all their own health information in a secure medical journal."
He suggested TRICARE Online could be useful to parents whose children keep different schedules.
"After my kids go to bed, my wife or I can log on, look at all the available appointments, match them up with the kids' soccer or choir schedule and decide what appointment really is best for them," the doctor said. "Also, when your child wakes up with a sore throat at six in the morning, it's nice to be able to go on the Web then and make an appointment instead of having to wait until everything opens at 7:30 or 8."
"We decided to start TRICARE Online by focusing on things beneficiaries said they wanted first," Kelly noted. "So we did appointments first." He pointed out that the ability to make appointments only works with primary care managers at military treatment facilities.
People will be able to refill their prescriptions on the Web within the next year, he said. That service currently is unavailable.
TRICARE Online also has more than 18 million pages of health and wellness information and disease management tools for military beneficiaries.
"That's something a lot of people have found very useful," Kelly noted. "We think the information is very high quality and people have really liked it. It gives you all sorts of information on basic self-help."