New data technology sreamlines patient care process during Cobra Gold 2007
By Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks
| | May 11, 2007
PRACHUAP PROVINCE, Thailand --
New technologies are being tested as part of Cobra Gold 2007, a multilateral combined exercise conducted by the Royal Thai Armed Forces, U.S. Armed Forces and Armed Forces of allied nations focusing on enhancing security in the Southeast Asian region and providing humanitarian/civic assistance.
At one medical assistance project at the Udomraj Pakdee School in Prachuap Province, a new technology transferring vital patient statistics is being put to the test.
Medical assistance programs process hundreds of patients daily, which creates thousands of documents that need to be filed, analyzed and distributed to commanders who in turn analyze disease trends for better preparation in future projects.
A new system recently developed by Global Relief Technologies and now being tested is making pen and paper obsolete. The Broadband Global Area Network Inmarsat and the Tripod Data System, a mobile communication service that provides both voice and broadband data simultaneously through a single portable device on a global basis, enables deployed personnel to transmit vital data in a matter of seconds.
With this technology, the humanitarian assistance programs are facilitated and more patients cared for in less time, said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Stephen Maloney, deputy director, Humanitarian Civil Assistance Program.
"In fifteen seconds I was able to link up with the satellite, download new updated programs and transmit new data back to the rear," said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Ladd, hospital corpsman from the Operational Hospital Support Unit, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The system is made up of a small lightweight satellite dish that can be placed anywhere and rugged personal data assistants loaded with the latest health information software. The satellites and the PDAs can operate up to eight hours, depending on their use, and the satellite dish powers up in about 15 seconds.
Doctors, working through translators, can get a basic health two-page questionnaire answered in a matter of seconds with a few clicks on the touch screen, according to Ladd. Some of the PDAs are equipped with translation software allowing the patients to answer questions in their native language.
"This system eliminates the need for a lot of voice communication and written documents, both of which can be unreliable," said Ben Rosenbaum, program director, Global Relief Technologies.
There are many aspects that make the system a large and integral part of the medical assistance operations. One is the ability to transmit the information in near real time, according to Rosenbaum.
"The doctors can treat a patient and, with a few clicks, the commanders at headquarters can view and analyze the information in a data bank," he added. "They can make adjustments and ensure the most up to date care is given to the patients."
During this medical assistance project, more than 400 patients were assisted. With only nine satellite dishes and 20 PDAs, all patient information was categorized and organized and delivered to the local health care facilities before they left the area.
Along with strategic data transmission, the system ensures continuity of care.
"The electronic forms ensure the right treatments and the right medication is given to the patients," said Ladd. "With pen and paper a combination of bad hand writing or miscommunication can be hazardous to the patient."
Should a step in the treatment process be overlooked, the health care software sends a warning to the PDA ensuring nothing in the process is missed.
"Medical safety is paramount and this ensures the best quality of care for the patients," said Ladd.
According to Rosenbaum, the program was implemented by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific as a way to facilitate a portable and easy to use interface enabling humanitarian missions conducted during operations like Cobra Gold to run smoothly.
"It removes a lot of the excess steps," Rosenbaum said. "Without it, you would have to have someone organize the data, analyze thousands of documents, compile the information and then report on the data collected. With this system, that is all done for you as soon as you submit the data."
The system has been implemented at all the medical assistance projects facilitating hundreds of patients during Cobra Gold.
According to Rosenbaum, before the operations are even completed, the commanders will be able to implement changes and plan according to the information received.
"This will help in future Cobra Gold (exercises) based on the improved data collection," said Rosenbaum. "They will be able to analyze trends in diseases and identify the needs of the patients."
More stories, photos and videos are availible at www.apan-info.net/cobragold.