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Telemedicine Enhances Troop Health Care in Bosnia

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 1996 – A "medical internet" will provide U.S. forces in Eastern Europe the same level of health care they'd receive back home, officials at the Medical Advanced Technology Management Office, Fort Detrick, Md., said.

When fully augmented, the DoD telemedicine project dubbed "Primetime III" will equip medics deployed to Bosnia and Hungary with high-resolution, color remote video teleconferencing for consultations with specialists around the world. Primetime III will enable deployed medics to obtain radiology, dentistry and psychiatric medical support, hold preventive medicine and infectious disease consultations, provide situational awareness and conduct medical research on the Internet.

Army Capt. Scott Ehnes, Primetime III operations officer, said the network will give deployed medics access to Army, Navy and Air Force medical centers in the United States and expand telemedicine services to additional Air Force, Navy and allied force medical units in Europe.

The network also will allow specialists to see and talk to deployed physicians and patients in real time to discuss diagnoses and treatment, Ehnes said. This will allow patients to be treated in-theater, vs. evacuating them for medical care, he added.

Eastern Europe's often inclement weather and inadequate airport runways hamper large-scale medical evacuations and underscore the need for improved health care on site, according to Army Col. Fred Goeringer, a project manager.

"We can expect to have 400 to 500 clinic visits a day [in Bosnia and Hungary]," Goeringer said. "If you look at that in terms of the next year, it just isn't feasible to think you can airlift them all out."

Previous Primetime projects supported U.S. forces in Macedonia and Croatia. Phased augmentation of Primetime III began in February.

In the first phase, the Primetime III task force fielded telemedicine support packages and developed the network at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany; 67th Combat Support Hospital, Hungary; and 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Bosnia; and established telecommunication connectivity to stateside military medical centers.

Now in progress, the second phase will field seven deployable telemedicine forward operating base medical units supporting Operation Joint Endeavor.

Phase 3 will further expand the telemedicine network to the remaining forward operating medical units in Bosnia.

Telemedicine is up and running at the two field hospitals in Bosnia and Hungary, Ehnes said. A fourth phase will include electronic medical records and a theater medical information network.

The system has been used for many types of consultations, Ehnes said, and have diverted several medical evacuations. Having telemedical services in the region, he said, has greatly enhanced the level of health care available.

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