Call it mobile health on a grand scale.
Healthcare experts generally recommend against patient transfers whenever possible, but not the U.S. military when treating trauma cases in combat zones. Instead, as the Washington Post reports in a Sunday front-page story, the mantra for treating wounded warriors is "keep the patient moving."
With limited availability of trauma services in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, military medics want to have severely wounded patients seen by specialists close to the battlefield, treat patients as quickly as possible, then move them out to clear the beds for new cases, even if the wounded aren't stabilized yet. "We used to say we wouldn't send someone unless they were stable. Now we say they have to be 'stabilizing,'" Major David Zonies, "trauma czar" at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, said. "We have pushed our comfort zone considerably."
That's where C-17 medical evacuation planes come in, taking patients out of the combat zone to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Patients often are back on U.S. soil within five to six days of being wounded. "The flight is squeezed in between surgeries, not the other way around," Air Force Col. Christian R. Benjamin, commander of a U.S military hospital in Bagram, tells the Post. "Continuity of care is not interrupted by pesky little things like moving the patients 10,000 miles."
As FierceMobileHealthcare reported in May 2009, Critical Care Aeromedical Transport (CCAT) teams take over, with full access to patient EMRs and advanced clinical decision support while in flight. Thanks to the flying ICUs, more soldiers today are surviving major combat wounds than at any other time in U.S. history.
- read this Washington Post story