May 18, 2021 —
You may have recently noticed an email inside your Coast Guard inbox from Coast Guard Care Anywhere (CGCA). This means that the Coast Guard’s telehealth virtual appointments are now available to you as an active duty or a reserve member, once you activate your account.
Although in some geographic locations, COVID-19 exposure risks have reduced, virtual appointments are still expected to be an ongoing and essential aspect of health care moving forward for a variety of reasons. Lt. Cmdr. Diana Gertsch, the CGCA system owner explained, “With or without a pandemic, many medical visits do not require in-person consultation.”
Appointments are frequently scheduled to ask a question, describe a medical concern, request a medication refill, review lab results, or complete a physical health assessment. “These conversations can be done virtually,” added Gertsch. “Virtual appointments can help decompress the clinics, reduce unnecessary referrals to urgent care and can improve patient access. These visits decrease the unnecessary exposure to potential illnesses through the ability to hold HIPAA-safe video visits from the safety of their homes or offices.”
Virtual appointments are currently available for medical screenings, fitness for duty, medical board, temporary limited duty follow ups, periodic health assessments, lab result reviews, medication refills, urgent care consults, as well as, mental and behavioral health appointments.
Now that you have received your activation email or text message, here are the steps you need to take before being able to schedule a telehealth appointment. If you haven’t received your activation email, please contact your local clinic to ensure an email is sent to you.
From your activation email or text, click the included link to log into the CGCA system and create a password to activate your account.
Once you are enrolled with an activated account, you will see a welcome screen with dashboard where you can click to request an appointment, send a secure message, etc. When selecting to request an appointment, you will open a screen with choices to click based on your appointment reason.
The next step is to fill out a questionnaire based on your primary need. Once the form is completed, it will be sent securely through the HIPAA-secured system to a scheduler in your local clinic who has the ability to triage your request and schedule your appointment. Provider schedules are built as providers are added to the system.
You, as the patient, will then receive an email and/ or text message with the date and time of your appointment.
Also, a reminder will be sent to you prior to your appointment. Reminders are determined by the clinic and could be sent in 15-minute, 20-minute or even 24-hour timeframes before your appointment.
The Telehealth team wants to ensure members are aware of a few additional items. If you do not respond to the email you received, you will continue to receive email reminders every week until your account is activated. You will not be able to schedule a video telehealth appointment without an active account. Also, for best results, please use the Chrome browser for virtual visits. Lastly, to avoid being locked out of your account, remember to log in at least once every 30 days.
“We ask that members be patient with the clinics as they train and familiarize themselves with the program,” said Gertsch. “It adapts well into current clinic procedures but it is still a new system. My team and I are working closely with the HSWL Service Center and the clinics to expand health care options and to improve access.”
A website for patient information is being developed, however, technical questions can be directed toward the helpdesk on the sign-in page. Questions can also be addressed by staff at your local clinic.
- Coast Guard Care Anywhere article: Coming soon: Virtual medical appointments
- Telehealth Coast Guard Care Anywhere Initiative ALCOAST 020/21