Afghan theater medics push to expand health IT access

By Peter Buxbaum
02:56 PM

Key members of a U.S. military medical task force in Afghanistan are pushing for greater accessibility to electronic health records and telemedicine capabilities in theater.

Sgt. Timothy Kusik, the noncommissioned officer in charge for Task Force Medical East in Bagram, Afghanistan, and his team are working to place MC4 laptops at the bedside in treatment rooms and are evaluating installation of the Army's Joint Telemedicine Network (JTMN) at remote locations to improve data access and to explore video teleconference capabilities.

MC4, the Army's Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care organization, provides the U.S. military with AHLTA-Theater, the electronic health record used in conflict zones.

"We're working to have MC4 systems at the bedside in treatment rooms," said Kusik. "Currently, nurses write notes at the bedside and enter the information when they get back to the nurse's station."

Many reservists, including Kusik, who works as an X-ray technician, are employed in civilian hospitals with terminals in patient care rooms when they are not on active duty. "They want the same capability here," said Kusik. "We're working to improve the infrastructure to make this possible."

Kusik is also pushing JTMN to forward operating bases to allow better accessibility to patient information in remote locations which often lack network connectivity as well as to provide telemedicine capabilities.

MC4 systems include a feature which allows patient data to be stored in areas which lack connectivity and then uploaded once a network connection has been established. JTMN could provide treatment centers access to MC4 data.

Kusik is also examining the use of JTMN for video teleconferencing and telemedicine. "This could be a way for specialists located at larger encampments, such as Bagram, to connect with soldiers downrange that need counseling with professionals," said Kusik. Video teleconferencing and telemedicine," he noted, "are just starting to take hold in theater."

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