- NATO has finished testing a multinational telemedicine platform for emergency scenes or combat zones and is ready to deploy the suitcase-sized kits where needed around the world.
The 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization made the announcement at a conference at its headquarters in Brussels. The telemedicine program, supported by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Program, was launched in 2013 and involved experts from the U.S., Romania, Finland, Moldova and the Ukraine.
“In the event of a disaster, telemedicine helps eliminate distance barriers and improves access to medical services that would often not be available on the ground, even in remote areas,” Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, said in a press release.
To develop the kit, NATO worked with Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera Health, with representatives visiting Avera’s telemedicine hub in 2015 to see examples of several different types of technology.
"Right now when there's a disaster most countries will send some sort of aid; United States sends teams, Romania sends teams," Donald Kosiak, who was then medical director for Avera's telemedicine services and medical chairman of the NATO program, told the Associated Press during NATO’s visit to South Dakota. "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."
"When you send a team to let's say a hurricane or a tsunami in Japan, you have to be able to feed them, and water them, and clothe them, and take care of all their needs on top of allowing them to do medical care," Koziak said. "(With telemedicine) you still send people, but instead of needing to send 30 people maybe you send 12."
In late 2015, NATO field-tested a Transportable Exam Station developed by Arizona-based GlobalMed in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. The test involved more than 1,000 rescue workers from 34 countries and marked the first interoperability test for national telemedicine platforms.
“The telemedicine project has high-level political backing, and involves an incredible pool of scientists and experts,” Ducaru said in a press release following that test, which was also captured on video. “It aims to save lives in emergency situations, as well as in military operations.”