NATO tests telemed in Ukraine

By Eric Wicklund
09:32 AM

NATO conducted a test of the portable medical kits, involving some 1,100 rescue workers from 34 countries, in Lviv, Ukraine, this past September. Called the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) telemedicine project, it enabled rescue workers to assess, diagnose and treat patients in the field and communicate in real time with healthcare providers.

A telemedicine-based disaster-response system patterned after Avera Health's eCare platform has been successfully tested in the Ukraine, and could soon be used in hotspots and remote locations around the globe.

"The idea is to develop a multinational capacity for disaster response," Raed Arafat, Secretary of State in the Department of Emergency Situations of the Romanian Ministry of Interior and Director of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) telemedicine project, said in a press release supplied by NATO.

Arafat was one of several officials from Romania, the United States, the United Kingdom and France to visit Avera's telemedicine hub in Sioux Falls, S.D., this past June.

"Right now when there's a disaster most countries will send some sort of aid; the United States sends teams, Romania sends teams," Donald Kosiak, the medical director for Avera's telemedicine services, told the Associated Press during the visit. "What we are trying to say is, when you send those teams, could we embed telemedicine into those teams? Those teams can then use that technology to reach back to not only experts in their own country but experts around the globe."

The Ukraine field test was organized by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and the State Emergency Service (SES) of Ukraine, and witnessed by, among others, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. NATO members Finland and Moldova participated in the project as well.

"The telemedicine project has high-level political backing and involves an incredible pool of scientists and experts," Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General of the NATO Emerging Security Challenges Division, said in the NATO press release. "Today, NATO prioritizes ensuring greater security for fewer resources through increased cooperation and efficiency. This SPS project is an excellent example of this."

NATO officials say the multinational telemedicine system could be used in civilian and military events, including crisis situations such as the conflict in eastern Ukraine. "Based on cutting-edge technology, the new platform represents a major step forward in live, real-time incident response health service delivery," they said in the release. "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."