Rarely will an emergency crew include the kind of specialist medical practitioners often needed to keep some victims of major accidents alive on their way to hospital. But the IST-funded DICOEMS project has developed wireless technology to treat emergency cases remotely.
With specially equipped handheld computers or smart phones, paramedics on the scene can send images and vital patient information, including pulse, respiration and electro cardiogram results, back to specialists waiting in nearby hospital emergency wings. Using streaming video technology, doctors can monitor a patient's condition while in the ambulance, make an appropriate diagnosis and, if necessary, provide detailed medical procedures for paramedics to follow.
|Accidents can happen anywhere. Thankfully, new technology can help emergency crews treat you in remote locations on the way to the hospital.|
“DICOEMS could significantly improve survival rates for victims of accidents or other medical emergencies by reducing the chance of inappropriate treatment,” says Matteo Colombo, a technical specialist at Synergia 2000, the Milan-based project coordinator. “The system will improve decision support, diagnosis and risk management in critical situations occurring far from hospital emergency rooms,” he told IST Results.
With seven partners from five European countries, the 30-month project, which ended 30 June, also sought to improve use of patient data. Here, they developed Grid network technology to integrate data stored in different locations. With simple search and retrieve functions, a patient's medical history can be on-screen regardless of which hospital he or she is taken to, with the person's own physician even participating – also remotely through the multi-channel platform – in the treatment. This is especially useful for recurring conditions.
Global positioning and placement
Another feature of the system is a special text-search tool for matching the patient – using their clinical data as a gauge – potentially with the most suitable medical facility or doctors. A powerful global positioning system helps emergency staff guide the mobile crew both to the scene of the accident and then to the nearest or best hospital.
One function initially envisaged by the €3.5 million (€2 million in EU funding) DICOEMS project was a portable DNA checker to help identify accident victims that are unconscious at the scene. But the consortium came up against EU data collection and protection laws limiting the ability to assemble an extensive DNA database covering the general public. Alternatives are being investigated.
After successful pilot tests in Italy and the UK, the wireless platform is scheduled to go into more wide-scale use by Italian ambulance centres at the end of 2006. “In Italy, there is already a strong willingness by ambulance associations to use the new system,” says Colombo. Partners are being sought to help exploit the technology further.