IT Enables US Army Doctors to Retrieve Vital Records, Perform Surgery
Using paper medical records in military hospitals and mobile medical units can be impractical at best. Doctors and nurses have to flip through paper-based charts to review patient histories in time-pressure situations that often require immediate action.
Using the US Army’s electronic medical record system called Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4), US military doctors, medics, and nurses record and retrieve medical information from laptops. Rather than searching through reams of paper records, Army medical personnel can quickly punch in a patient’s name and have all of the relevant medical history at their fingertips.
Recently, an Army surgeon in Iraq has been able to use the MC4 system not just for record keeping but to perform surgery, which involved transmitting images back to specialists in the United States who assisted the surgeon.
To support the MC4 system, General Dynamics Information Technology recently received a 5-year task order, worth up to $154 million if all options are exercised…
No More Paper
Under the task order, General Dynamics will provide predeployment, deployment, on-site, redeployment and garrison support to the MC4 system, as well as worldwide training, including combat areas and contingency operations use. The task order was issued under the GSA Millenia Lite functional area 3 (mission support services) contract (GS07T00BGD0024).
General Dynamics will provide fielding, training and sustainment support of MC4 medical information systems for tactical medical forces that have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A vivid description of how the MC4 system can benefit military hospitals is offered by Army Staff Sergeant Stephen Cunningham, treatment noncommissioned officer in charge, 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, Camp Hovey in South Korea:
“When I arrived at the consolidated troop aid station at Camp Hovey, South Korea, in 2008, it was like I stepped back in time. All of the patient records were generated with pen and paper.
Providers flipped through stacks of charts to review patient histories. We also faxed copies of our charts when patients required tests or additional care at nearby clinics or at the 121st General Hospital in Yongsan.
Medically, we support 1,400 Soldiers with sick call and weekly immunizations. Paper charts are just not practical.
A few weeks after I joined the unit, I learned that the aid station had MC4 equipment, but it was not being used. It was locked away in a CONEX. I took the systems out of storage, set up the local network and trained the clinical staff to use the system…
MC4 offers a better method to screen patients compared to charting on paper. The providers are able to easily review the information and treat the patient from the data gathered. My medics like using MC4 since it helps to walk them through all of the questions to ask the patients. When I was starting out as a medic, I had to learn every exam from memory. Now, all of the information is on the computer screen. It takes all of the guess work out of the screening process.
The MC4 system has been very beneficial in aid stations downrange and in garrison. Since the information we enter can be seen at different levels of care, makes up a Soldiers permanent medical history and is easily portable. I do not see a reason to go back to paper records.”
In addition to digitizing medical records, the MC4 system is being used to provide telemedicine applications in Iraq.
In August 2009, Lt Col T. Sloane Guy IV, chief of surgery with the 47th Combat Support Hospital, conducted a successful test of the MC4 system’s telemedicine application.
Using the MC4 system, Guy performed a complex and rare surgical procedure on a soldier while sending video to and communicating with surgical specialists at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in Fort Sam Houston, TX.
Guy used a camera system configured in the operating room – 1 camera worn on his head and another mounted in the overhead light fixture. This configuration offered different views of the operative field, all connected in real-time over the Internet.
MC4 support personnel shouldered the configuration and technical support for Guy. After resolving firewall issues and inserting the technology into the operating room in theater, MC4 provided the hardware to BAMC to link Guy with specialists stateside.
The new system could also prepare new surgeons for the realities of theater trauma care. Surgeons graduating from military programs and preparing to deploy for the first time could watch live procedures from the battlefield.
Since 2003, MC4 Product Management Office has fielded 35,000 systems to combat support hospitals and deployable medical assets with the US Army, US Air Force, US Navy and US Army Special Operations Forces in 14 countries. More than 44,000 users, commanders and systems administrators have been trained on how to use and support the system.