Md. unit will administer 'telemedicine' to soldiers Project will link doctors at field hospitals in Bosnia with foreign specialists

January 04, 1996|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

A high-technology unit at Fort Detrick in Frederick is scrambling to provide medical help for U.S. soldiers now performing peacekeeping duties in Bosnia.

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is mounting an $8.6 million project to link doctors at field hospitals in Bosnia with specialists in Germany and the United States, said Mark Schnur, communications director for the command's telemedicine office.

Using portable computers, video cameras and satellite dishes, field medics will be able to consult with specialists not assigned to Bosnia and "show" them soldiers needing treatment.

A six- to eight-member team is being organized to install the link-up and to train the field hospital staffs in Bosnia, Mr. Schnur said. The team is expected to reach Bosnia by Feb. 1.

Equipment that permits remote conferencing will be installed at a couple of military hospitals in Bosnia and perhaps at field clinics, the spokesman said. The linkup will be with military hospitals in Landstuhl, Germany, and with various military medical facilities in the U.S., including the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

"We're providing hardware, software and also the communications and medical engineering expertise to piece everything together," said Mr. Schnur.

Dubbed Operation Prime Time 3, the project is an outgrowth of similar, less sophisticated medical linkups established a year ago to treat U.S. soldiers performing peacekeeping in Macedonia and Croatia, Mr. Schnur said.

Quick consultation with specialists who can actually see and hear the patient may speed treatment, thus reducing the need for costly and risky evacuations of ill or wounded soldiers.

In one such case, he said, a field doctor in Macedonia hooked up with specialists at the Bethesda medical center to help her diagnose a soldier who was having trouble breathing.

The consultation enabled the field doctor to treat the soldier promptly on the spot, rather than having to evacuate him. "We feel like we made a difference there and may very well have saved the soldier's life," Mr. Schnur said.

The medical research and materiel command, although based at Fort Detrick, also provides support for the Air Force and the Navy.

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