RCHI develops cutting-edge tool to track battlefield traumas

July 16, 2012

Minutes on the battlefield can mean the difference between life and death. In fact, 90 percent of combat wound fatalities occur before a soldier reaches a medical treatment facility.Prehospital Trauma Registry screenshot

To make those minutes count, the Texas A&M Health Science Center Rural and Community Health Institute (TAMHSC-RCHI) joined forces with the 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Army Special Operation Command, and Altarum Institute to build the Pre-Hospital Trauma Registry (PHTR). This registry tool allows medics to quickly record and track trends of injuries on the battlefield without revealing their location to enemies. The PHTR was also later modified for use by the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division.

“The system we designed allows them to capture information about the patient from pretty much the first moment,” said Peter Yu, Ph.D., associate research scientist at TAMHSC-RCHI.

Because information is entered immediately, medics working on a patient can easily access data telling them what equipment to apply, what kind of medicine to administer if any, should be given.

A few years ago, the Army approached TAMHSC-RCHI requesting a tool that would not only allow for the easy communication of data but also could be used when deploying on the front line. They wanted real-time data in an easy-to-use system on limited bandwidth.

The PHTR was designed based on these needs. It’s modeled after the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) card, a paper form currently used on the battlefield by the Army. Entering data using the PHTR eliminates the risk of handheld devices that give off backlight and increase the risk of being seen by the enemy.

Medics carry the TCCC cards and note very basic information upon approaching the patient – soldier’s name, rank, wound site, administration of fluid and necessary drugs. Then, they evacuate to a safe place with an Internet connection to upload these details into the PHTR.

The tool can use any platform, portable computer, working station or handheld device to allow medics to connect to the server. This enables information to be instantly documented and helps the Army keep all of its records in one spot. Before the registry was implemented, information on Army casualties was scattered throughout several offices.

In addition to real-time feedback, it’s compatible with the Joint Theater Trauma Registry, a giant database storing casualty information.

With medics able to browse any server, they can easily access the PHTR to analyze reports and readjust treatment strategies.

“We’ve been told this system we designed really, truly saves our soldiers’ lives,” Dr. Yu said. “We are really glad to be a part of the team to design such a tool that they can continue using and continue saving their lives.”

Story contributed by Megan Lightsey

— Blair Williamson