Can Medical PDAs Revolutionize Battlefield Healthcare?

February 29, 2016
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War has a long history of bringing medical advancements and innovation. New techniques and technologies are developed out of necessity and sometimes desperation. The battlefield provides the ultimate test for any new advancement. If it can succeed in the rigors of war, it can likely succeed anywhere.

War has a long history of bringing medical advancements and innovation. New techniques and technologies are developed out of necessity and sometimes desperation. The battlefield provides the ultimate test for any new advancement. If it can succeed in the rigors of war, it can likely succeed anywhere.

This same process can work in reverse, leading to civilian developed tech being adapted by the military. Even otherwise ordinary technology can have an important place in military hospitals and clinics. Social networking, mobile applications, and a variety of handheld devices can find important homes in traditional medicine, social work, and military environments.

The usage of personal digital assistants (PDAs) is becoming widespread in the civilian medical fields. Ever since the first introduction of this technology, the Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center has explored different ways that medical professionals can utilize PDAs both on and off the battlefield. These devices are currently used at the squad level as a Combat PDA for land navigation and communication.

Professors at the Ohio University School of Nursing conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of such devices among first year Nursing Students. These medical PDAs allow nurses, medics, and doctors to carry important information about their patients directly to the bedside. One major advantage noted in the study is that up-to-date information is available on demand to medical professionals.

“Healthcare  has  seen  the  emergence  of  technology  in  the  clinical  setting  over  the  last  decade  and  most recently the usage of hand-held devices, such as the PDA, growing in popularity within the field of nursing due to its portability and ease of usage. The introduction of PDAs in the ADN program permitted students to remain mobile while  keeping  vital  information  in  the  palm  of  their  hands.”

These devices can also be used for diagnostic purposes, and can saves important time that might otherwise be spent searching through paper records and reference books. Additionally, the ability to carry all of this information with you compactly can help reduce errors.

There is a push toward mainstream usage of these devices in clinical settings as they are already seen as a valuable educational tool for aspiring doctors and nurses.

One particular advantage that this technology offers the military is that you can take a veritable library’s worth of information on a deployment. Such a possibility eliminates the need for multiple medical manuals and physical reference materials, thus allowing diagnostics and decision making to be carried out in a more timely manner.

“Students  were  able  to  carry  few  reference  items  with them  to  the  clinical  setting,  which  proved  to  be  a  plus  with  space  for  storage  and  student  working  being  limited. Another  benefit  has  been  that  students  possessed  the  ability  to  look  up  information  at  the point  of  care,  thus ultimately  saving  time  and  unneeded  steps.”

Accurate and convenient access to electronic health records and reference materials both at home and abroad and contributes to the overall readiness and effectiveness of our military’s forces. Ensuring that doctors, nurses, and medics have access to these devices is the next important step.