Battlefield medical systems join Digital Age

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The Defense Department's Military Health System (MHS) fielded electronic combat medicine systems so quickly in Iraq that technology jumped from legal pads to electronic health records (EHRs) in a year, Army officials said at the State of the MHS annual conference.

Army Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, which returned from Iraq last month, said one system fielded in Iraq, the Joint Patient Tracking Application (JPTA), instantly provided essential information, such as the status and location of wounded soldiers medevaced from combat.

Before JPTA, Vines said, commanders might have needed to make as many as 30 phone calls to determine the location of a wounded warrior. The Web-based JPTA makes the same information available immediately, Vines said. It could show him the location of a soldier in a continuum of care that includes battlefield aid stations, the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and U.S. hospitals, such as the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Air Force Col. Douglas Robb, command surgeon at the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), which is responsible for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the Landstuhl center developed JPTA as an in-house application for tracking details about patients’ stays at the center.

But Robb said center officials realized a broader potential for the system beyond tracking patients inside Landstuhl. Centcom sponsored the system’s deployment throughout its area of operations and in U.S. hospitals.

JPTA pulls patient information from the Composite Health Care System II-Theater application, fielded by the Joint Theater Medical Information Program (TMIP). Based on a demonstration of the system at the MHS conference, users can easily search data by patient name or hospital. In addition to showing the location of medevaced patients, JPTA provides a summary of their condition.

TMIP systems, including handheld devices used by field medics, also feed information to DOD’s Common Data Repository for medical records. Wherever medics evacuate a patient, information in the patient’s record is accessible through the standard DOD health information system, the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application, a TMIP spokesman said.

Army Lt. Col. Claude Hines, TMIP program manager, said the programs fielded by the organization to combat units in Iraq fulfill orders from Congress and the president to develop and field longitudinal health record systems to the battlefield.

Hines said that in addition to battlefield EHR applications, TMIP is also responsible for developing systems that support medical logistics systems and systems that feed information into the DOD Global Combat Support System.

Hines said TMIP has started to develop new software, including an integrated version of JPTA, a medical database reference system, a shipboard automated system and plans to integrate applications with the Microsoft Windows XP operating system and the Microsoft Server 2003 system. Hines added that TMIP is developing versions of its software that can run on Citrix workstations.

TMIP expects to provide its new applications to the services’ medical departments by October, Hines said. He did not provide a timeline for fielding the applications in combat.


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