Army tests new communication device that could save wounded soldiers’ lives

The U.S. Army is testing a new medical communication device that could help save soldiers’ lives.

The Medical Hands-free Unified Broadcast (MEDHUB) tablet aims to boost communication between patients, medics and field hospitals, according to officials. MEDHUB harnesses smart automation technology, letting medics send patient data with the click of a button as opposed to typing thousands of characters, explains the Army in a statement. This can shorten the time spent by a medic completing a Tactical Combat Casualty Care card and result in a two-to-three-fold improvement in accuracy compared to pen and paper.

The device forwards critical data to hospitals via long-range tactical communications systems used by the Department of Defense, according to officials. This lets medical staff prepare for the patient’s arrival.

“Every minute counts here,” said Jay Wang, product manager for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, in the statement. “There are certain things like defrosting blood that takes 20 minutes.”

Before patient arrival, test participants with the 44th Medical Brigade studied patient information on the Medical Hands-free Unified Broadcast device. (Ashley Force, U.S. Army)

Before patient arrival, test participants with the 44th Medical Brigade studied patient information on the Medical Hands-free Unified Broadcast device. (Ashley Force, U.S. Army)

Testing of the device has been taking place at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) in Fort Rucker, Ala. The test, which examined how field hospital staff used the device, involved mass casualty simulations with mannequins mocked up to look like combat victims with gunshot wounds, burns and amputations.

The so-called “golden hour” for battlefield medical treatment is a cornerstone of U.S. military medicine. The term refers to the all-important 60 minutes following a battlefield wound and the critical importance of swift, effective medical care.

Anything that helps speed up treatment could prove key to saving lives.

“For some patients, the ‘Golden Hour’ is ultimately too long, these patients need to be treated within minutes,” said Army Cpt. Sean McCoy, 541st Forward Surgical Team ER physician, in the statement.

The hospital scenario was the final developmental test of MEDHUD. “The data from this study allows for the proper planning of an end-to-end Operational Test scheduled in March,” said the Army. “At that time, the use of MEDHUB will be tested from point of injury – to the ground medic – to the ground vehicle medic – to the air and ambulance – to the hospital.”

After that data is analyzed, USAARL and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA) will publish a joint paper and report on the findings. This, according to officials, will help “push MEDHUB along into the Warfighter’ hands.”

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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