Nutritional needs; VTC in the medical field

Gayle Kenyon, health promotion coordinator assigned to the 97th Medical Group, has a video tele-conference with Ann Elkins, clinical dietitian assigned to the 412th Medical Group, discussing the progress of the new tele-medical nutrition therapy program

Gayle Kenyon, health promotion coordinator assigned to the 97th Medical Group, has a video tele-conference with Ann Elkins, clinical dietitian assigned to the 412th Medical Group, discussing the progress of the new tele-medical nutrition therapy program, Feb. 8, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Smaller bases like Altus AFB don’t have a dietitian, so there is a new program to have a VTC with a dietitian from another base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody Dowell)

Ann Elkins, clinical dietitian assigned to the 412th Medical Group, shows of the capabilities of a video tele-conference use for long range dietary needs

Ann Elkins, clinical dietitian assigned to the 412th Medical Group, shows of the capabilities of a video tele-conference use for long range dietary needs, Feb. 8, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Smaller bases like Altus AFB don’t have a dietitian, so there is a new program to have a VTC with a dietitian from another base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Since 2014, Altus AFB has not met the criteria to hire a full-time registered dietitian. Members needing dietary assistance have been referred 45 minutes away to Fort Sill. This takes time away from service members and Fort Sill can only assist a limited number of outside personnel.

The 97th Medical Group, along with their headquarters, the Air Force Medical Operations Agency, managed to coordinate with larger agencies to fill this void. They constructed a new program, allowing members to have a one-on-one Video Tele-Conference (VTC) with a registered dietitian.

“A person seeking dietary assistance for medical reasons can now go through their primary care manager to be referred for a VTC,” said Gayle Kenyon, health promotion coordinator assigned to the 97th MDG. “Providing care through VTC is part of our new initiative called tele-wellness, specifically tele-medical nutrition therapy. Patients, including children, with weight, diabetic, cardiovascular disease or other dietary issues are accepted referrals for the program. The program is new and has to meet with the dietitian’s schedule, so it is only available once a week.”

Using VTC capabilities isn’t new or foreign to the 97th Medical Group. Other medical departments at the clinic utilize VTC when unable to support specific patient needs, such as psychiatry.

This program helps patients acquire dietary assistance closer to home and in a more personalized program. A dietitian can provide tailored information that a person could not obtain from their primary care physician.

“A dietitian creates a custom meal plan for patients on a case-by-case basis,” said Ann Elkins, clinical dietitian assigned to the 412th Medical Group at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. “There is a large difference from the diet of a vegan Airman in the dorms and a diet of a 65 year old retiree. Therefore, I have to set up a specific meal created to help them reach their personal goals. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter diet.”

The program was made possible by the hard work and determination that Kenyon put in. She put three years of trial and error into this program, so that it would be here today.

“Making a program from the ground up in any situation is difficult,” said Kenyon. “It wasn’t the fault of anybody in particular, but sometimes things just don’t work. It takes the coordination of a lot of different agencies to ensure that we can provide correct quality care. The main thing was persistence, I knew that this program would help the community, so I made sure to talk with leadership and not give up.”

It might have taken a while for this program to take off, but it provides ground work for other bases and programs. This is only the beginning for Altus AFB and healthcare through VTC.

“Even seeing the program where it’s at today has made it all worth it,” said Kenyon. “I stuck to my guns and knew this program was beneficial. If people can learn from the work I went through to get this program started, hopefully it can make it easier for them to start their own new program or model it off of ours.”