Emergency Medicine with a Built-in Safety System
Cochem, October 15, 2018
“Soldiers who are wounded, injured, or ill on duty should receive the same medical care abroad as at home.” In order to follow this medical service maxim, medical and technical expertise must be available in every country of deployment – a logistical and financial challenge which telemedicine, as an effective alternative and supplement, helps to solve.
Test run of the transmission of ultrasound examinations through telemedicine. (Source: Medical Service Bundeswehr / David Jäckel)
In a pilot project in July of this year, doctors of the Medical Support Center Cochem tested tele-medical support within the Bundeswehr’s operational areas. Together with the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt “DLR”), they tested a new data compression method which can transmit ultrasound examinations. As an extension of a videoconferencing system already in use, it is possible to have experienced colleagues use the system to “look over the shoulders” of personnel on site and thus significantly increase the quality of difficult examinations. This system is capable of real-time transmission in high quality at low bandwidths. Picture and sound quality is excellent, the required bandwidth is normally available during deployment.
“Our doctors carrying out missions bear a considerable responsibility for the initial care of members of the armed forces”, says chief doctor Michael Neuhoff, head of the medical support headquarters in Cochem. Tele-medical procedures have long been used on naval vessels and in land-based operations although technical factors often set limits on medical consultation. In rural areas, for example, the available bandwidth is low in contrast to the high amounts of data needed to be transmitted.
Test locally, use globally
Real-time transmission test of an ultrasound examination with the new data compression method. (Source: Medical Service Bundeswehr / David Jäckel)
In a pilot project, specialists of the medical supply center Cochem, which is responsible for regional medical service provisions for Bundeswehr sites in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, act as the experts (this task will then be assumed by specialists at Bundeswehr hospitals) and young military doctors at the Kastellaun and Daun sites take on the role of deployed medical personnel seeking advice on their examination. “Not only the transfer of expertise to the country of operation is an advantage of this compression method, the different levels of experience available in country can be compensated in real time, too.” expanded Dr. Neuhoff. “Thus, in this first test round, within a few minutes, a cardiologist from the Bundeswehr Hospital in faraway Hamburg was able to remotely help a young female medical officer to evaluate cardiac echo”.
Further tests planned
The data compression method is intended to enable faster access of expertise in telemedicine. (Source: Medical Service Bundeswehr / David Jäckel)
In the second phase of testing in the fourth quarter of this year, implementation will be re-tested together with the Bundeswehr Hospital in Hamburg. As a reference house for all seagoing units of the Navy, the hospital is very interested in telemedicine at low bandwidth. This will be followed by testing with the military doctor at the Mission Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania where German soldiers are also on duty. Those responsible also want to test around the clock accessibility.
“The basis of this transmission technology was developed by the same company that provided our current telemedicine equipment. The transmission takes place securely with NATO-standard encryption so that here we only need to update the equipment”, comments Dr. Med. Neuhoff on the solution which will soon be introduced nationwide. Politicians have also expressed interest in the technology; telemedicine could be a way to address the threat of civil health care supply bottlenecks in rural areas.