Nato tests telemedicine system in Ukraine
October 20, 2015
Nato is developing a multinational telemedicine system to improve access to health services and increase survival rates in emergency situations, including in remote areas. The technology was successfully live tested during a field exercise in Lviv, Ukraine, in September, attended by Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.
The idea is to develop a multinational capacity for disaster response,” explained Raed Arafat, secretary of state in the Department of Emergency Situations of the Romanian Ministry of Interior.
Co-organised by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and the State Emergency Service (SES) of Ukraine, the field exercise involved 1100 rescue workers from 34 countries. It was the first time that independent national telemedicine systems interacted to provide medical support in a disaster scenario.
Once developed, the multinational telemedicine system will have a dual-use for both civilian and military application, including crisis situations. Portable medical kits allow first responders to connect to the system to receive advice from medical specialists in case of an emergency, even in remote areas. Through the use of modern communications technologies, an international network of medical specialists will be able to assess the patient, determine the diagnosis and provide real-time recommendations.
“The telemedicine project has high-level political backing and involves an incredible pool of scientists and experts,” said Sorin Ducaru, assistant secretary general of Nato’s emerging security challenges division. “It aims to save lives in emergency situations as well as in military operations. Today, Nato prioritises ensuring greater security for fewer resources through increased cooperation and efficiency. This SPS project is an excellent example of this.”
Telemedicine supports the teams on the ground in remote areas with expertise that is not present at the scene of the disaster. This will speed up getting the right aid and care to those who need it most, having the potential to save many lives on the battlefield as well as in disasters with civilian casualties.
Against the background of the current conflict in Ukraine, this multinational telemedicine system has the potential to increase survival rates in remote areas, including for wounded Ukrainian soldiers.
The creation of a set of guidelines is envisioned based on existing standards so that in the future other countries may be able to connect their national telemedicine system into the wider, multinational capability.
Supported by the SPS Programme, this cooperation between Romania, the USA and Nato partners Finland, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine will also provide advanced equipment and training for users of the system.
The partner countries involved contribute experience and knowledge to this project. Finland, for instance, has a national telemedicine capability in place that brings related subject matter expertise. Moldova and Ukraine are providing qualified medical and communications technology personnel with a particular focus on emergency situations.