Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Handheld Can Save Lives

Researchers at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick Maryland are successfully working on a handheld telemedicine device referred to as “TEMPUS-Pro” in the article “The Business Side of Saving Lives” authored by Jeff Soares, a Communications Specialist with USAMRMC. The handheld device is an advanced compact telemedicine system that can be used on combat casualties happening in forward areas.

The “TEMPUS-Pro” resulted from a collaboration formed with TATRC, MC4, Defense Health Information Management Systems, Army Aero-Medical Research Laboratory, Army Institute of Surgical Research, Army Medical Materiel Agency, Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity, and the Joint Forces Command Surgeon’s Office.

Three devices incorporated into one handheld device is able to provide real-time audio and video capability plus the device houses a transcription feature to use when voice free input is available. The handheld allows for immediate communication, pre-hospital monitoring of patient vital signs and telemetry data, and is able to receive instructions from other medical providers.

The device is designed to be lightweight, mobile, rugged, and can be used with tactical communication radio networks supporting internet protocol-based transmission. This enables signals to be sent digitally over both classified and non-classified systems.

According to Dr. Gary Gilbert, Chief of the Knowledge Engineering Group for USAMRMC’s TATRC, “The patient’s medical data is always with the patient and goes with the patient everywhere.”

Medics can also quickly assess severe injuries and send real-time images along with live telemetry data, plus the Tactical Combat Casualty Card (TCCC) to experienced surgeons offsite for instructions. The physician mentor can talk with medics over the built-in voice-over IP capability. With ultrasound and laryngoscope capabilities in the works, use of the device will lead to more accurate diagnoses and treatment.

Personnel can transfer data from one device to another, from the ground to the helicopter, to the hospital, and can transmit information via radio or tactical internet in advance of the patient’s arrival at the next stop in the evacuation. The patient’s vital records can be exchanged wirelessly between various systems and eventually inserted into the patient’s permanent medical record.

The “TEMPUS-Pro” is requiring the military to upgrade the current limited capability to transmit data digitally between air and ground units. “The military’s helicopters currently do not all have compatible high tech radio systems necessary to transmit information digitally from helicopters to the ground, Gilbert says. “One of the biggest challenges is to get the TEMPUS-Pro integrated properly to be used in the medevac helicopter.”

Currently, the device is awaiting approval under the Department of Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process. However, about 25 units have been distributed to various Special Operations commands for trial use and so far the results have been positive.

The “TEMPUS-Pro” has been selected for the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation exercise to be held at Fort Bliss Texas beginning April 2012. The device will be field tested for two months to determine its operational effectiveness within Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. Also, the device will be tested in a Marine Corps Warfighting Lab Limited Objective Experiment scheduled for August 2012. Gilbert believes that these tow rigorous tests should help to validate the applicability and usefulness of the handheld device.