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Telemedicine Enhances Troop Health Care in Bosnia

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 29, 1996 – A "medical internet" will provide U.S. forces in Central Europe the same level of health care they'd receive back home, officials at the Medical Advanced Technology Management Office said.

When fully augmented, a DoD telemedicine project dubbed Prime Time III will equip field medics with high-resolution, color remote video for consultations with specialists at other locations. The project will also provide a telecommunications package to obtain radiology, dentistry and psychiatric medical support; hold preventive medicine and infectious disease consultations; and conduct medical research on the Internet.

Army Capt. Scott Ehnes, a Prime Time operations officer, said the network will allow 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.

These capabilities, said Ehnes, offset rugged field conditions to enable high-quality medical care with fewer evacuations. Telemedicine, he said, gets soldiers back to work faster.

Telemedicine uses digital communication technology to deliver health care at remote locations, officials explained. The technology enhances field medicine by electronically linking senior medical specialists with less specialized forward-deployed physicians.

Eastern Europe's often inclement weather and inadequate 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."

Based at Fort Detrick, Md., the medical technology office leads a joint-service effort to deploy the $10.5 million Prime Time III telemedicine package in Bosnia and Hungary.

Prevous Prime Time editions supported U.S. forces in Macedonia and Croatia. Phased augmentation of Prime Time III began in February.

In the first phase, the Fort Detrick office fielded telemedicine support packages at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany; 67th Combat Support Hospital, Hungary; and 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Bosnia; and established telecommunication services to stateside military medical centers.

In Phase 2, the office equipped and trained two brigade operating base medical units.

Now in progress, Phase 3 will equip and train forward-operating medical support units in Bosnia and provide a telemedicine link to the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic Sea.

Telemedicine is up and running at the two combat support hospitals, Ehnes said. Meanwhile, the European Command is validating Phase 2 and will follow that with Phase 3 validation, he said. A fourth phase includes electronic medical records and a theater medical information network.

Medics using Prime Time III capabilities like the package, Ehnes said. The system has been used for many types of consultations. Consultations have already diverted several medical evacuations, keeping the soldiers in theater, he said.

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