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Researchers integrate with operators to develop lifesaving medical software

Air Force researchers have developed a new electronic patient monitoring tool for use on the battlefield.

The Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit is software that can be used on smartphones or other mobile devices and lets medics manage multiple patients at once by monitoring and viewing vital information while in the chaotic environment of a battlefield, according to an an Air Force news release.

“BATDOK is a multi-patient, point of injury, casualty tool that assists our human operators and improves care,” said Dr. Gregory Burnett, manager for BATDOK  development, in the release. “It can be a real-time health status monitoring for multiple patients, a documentation tool, a ... medical library, a portal to integrate patient data into their electronic health records, and finally it is interoperable with battlefield digital situation awareness maps, which helps identify the exact location of casualties.”

The process by which the software was developed is what makes it unique. Researchers were intent on coming up with a device that would improve life-saving care on the battlefield, so they left the lab and went to the field so they could work with the operators.

“We physically left the lab, got into the field with the operators, and observed firsthand the challenges and deficiencies they face,” Burnett said, in the news release. “And when I say into the field, I mean we literally rode in the helicopters into hot landing zones, and observed medical airmen stabilize and package up patients for transport and load them back on the helicopter.

“We see, at the point of injury, the challenges and limitations that our medical airmen face. With those lessons learned, and gaps identified through direct experience, we come back to the lab and devise innovative solutions to address the short falls we observed firsthand in the field.”

“From day one, every interface, every button, every menu, was user-validated by pararescue airmen and combat rescue officers [who] were involved in the design, integration and testing process,” said Burnett. “Nothing is added without the explicit request and review by the operator.”

Even after the BATDOK was developed and researchers went back to the lab, they continued interacting with the operators for feedback while they were deployed, according to Air Force officials. They were determined not to add any additional burdens to battlefield airmen’s tactical gear.

“From the beginning, we were designing to enhance capabilities, while aiding their survivability and lethality,” Burnett said. “Being part of the Air Force gives us flexibility and firsthand, unfiltered access to operators and perspective on the challenges that airmen face. This is true for both humanitarian and combat missions. Being able to observe in person is invaluable and helps us contribute to the overall readiness mission.”


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