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New Technology Eases Medical Triage Work

Sep. 4, 2012 - 04:54PM   |  
By ADAM STONE   |   Comments
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An emerging technology could give a big boost to medical technicians looking to register and prioritize patients in the field.

Medweb of San Francisco demonstrated its mobile health technologies Aug. 13-17 at the Research and Experimentation for Local and International Emergency and First Responders (RELIEF) exercise co-hosted by the National Defense University and the Naval Postgraduate School at McMillan Airfield, Camp Roberts, Paso Robles, Calif.

The basic premise of Medweb’s technology is that patient care could be made more effective if emergency caregivers knew in advance just what sorts of problems their incoming patients had. “By the time that person is medevaced and gotten where they need to go, their information has already arrived ahead of them,” said Arian Terrill, program director at Medweb.

Terrill said the shortcomings of the present, largely paper-based systems, were evident during the crisis in Haiti. With information on local citizens coming in ad hoc, registering and documenting the wounded was problematic for U.S. military and Haitian medical personnel.

“Nobody knew where [the injured] were supposed to go and in what order of priority, or how long they would be there and when they would come back,” Terrill said.

It’s possible to transmit patient data through text, phone and email. The problem with these measures is that, while they can transmit data, they do not consolidate that information into a single place, in a medical context.

“It’s not being stored anywhere except on the device of the person who is receiving that information, who might not be the right person in the right place,” Terrill said.

At Camp Roberts, Medweb demonstrated a mobile system that collects medical data in a standardized form. It records not just the medical complaint but also the type of terrain involved and the types of equipment that will likely be needed. That information is fed into a database where it can be tracked alone and also triaged against other medical needs in the same event.

In addition to the mobile registration capabilities, the system also delivers the field-deployable digital exam kit. A shoulder bag weighing about seven pounds, the kit allows first responders to conduct examinations in the field and feed that data back to medical care facilities.

“It’s a telemedicine kit and has all of the devices you need to conduct a first-line patient exam, integrated with a tablet computer,” Terrill said.

To ensure that all this sensitive data can get to where it is going, even under adverse conditions, Medweb also is developing a portable micro-cellular mesh tower that will give users a cellular connection even when phone communications are lacking.

Medweb has not yet set a cost for the system, which the company says should come to market within the next six months.

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