Army enrolling volunteer units to test in-development automated triage tech

By Dave Muoio
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US Army triage training

Credit: U.S. Army on Facebook

The US Army’s medical division has been building a mobile technology platform that will streamline triage and communications in the event of medical evacuations, and is now looking for units to pilot the technology according to a recent release from the service’s public affairs division.

The Medical Hands-free Unified Broadcast, or MEDHUB, initiative looks to leverage wearable sensors, accelerometers, and other FDA-cleared technology as a means for medics to more easily communicate with teams at a receiving field hospital during an emergency situation. Developed by the subordinate organizations of the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the system automatically collects, stores, and transmits de-identified patient data from a device to a medical facility, allowing clinicians to better prepare for inbound patients and more promptly deliver appropriate treatment.

"Civilian emergency departments and [emergency medical] crews are using similar technology via phone apps to alert of incoming patients," Maj. Rosie Bennett, chief nurse at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Womack Army Medical Center, said in an Army release. "We have such tight security with our networks that makes such apps not reasonable to use.”

In a prior release describing the technology, the Army described a demonstration of the in-development system that included a tourniquet with built-in sensors, a heart rate monitor, blood pressure cups, and vital sign monitors, as well as a tablet to record and store data. The information collected is then transmitted via long-range Department of Defense communications systems.

"Imagine you are a medic on the battlefield and you just pick up six of your wounded battle buddies for a casualty evacuation. You are busy trying to save their lives and get them to the next level of care, which is a nearby field hospital that has no idea how many patients you are bringing or their conditions," Army Transport Telemedicine Product Manager Jay Wang said in a release. "The goal is to keep the medic focused for performing life-saving tasks for multiple patients and remain unencumbered from documentation and reporting."

Currently the 44th Medical Brigade and Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina are both in line to put MEDHUB through its paces, although Army Medicine is still looking for more units interested in testing the system. While the Army’s previous unveiling of the system estimated a 2020 rollout, this week’s announcement said that MEDHUB is on track for wider use by late 2019.

"When we first started telling people about the MEDHUB system a year or so ago, some people didn't think it was real or even possible in an operational environment," Wang said. "When we go out now and show people that MEDHUB works, we generate greater synergy around advancing transport telemedicine and the importance of efficient, effective communication during medical evacuation."