Euro Project Pushes eHealth Platform for Emergency Workers

A multifaceted telemedicine project funded in part by the European Union will move into trials this year, notwithstanding hurdles that caused the organizations putting together the project to refocus.

Diagnosis Collaborative Environment for Medical-Relevant Situations (DICOEMS) is a set of tools that researchers hope will facilitate healthcare providers and other personnel in emergency situations. The project will make use of communications and other technologies, including DNA analysis. While the initial plan was to develop a DNA database across the European Union, regulatory and other concerns caused the venture to change its focus slightly.

"We're aiming to do a trial run of this technology for emergency personnel or firemen who are in danger of being injured in an emergency, and who are willing to allow the system to use their DNA to identify them," says George Antikapzidis, senior consultant with Information Management Group, winner of the recent Microsoft Gold Partner of the Year award and one of seven organizations participating in DICOEMS.

While the database makes use of common technology available in the forensics setting, there has been significant research during the project to produce a method to quickly identify people from their DNA, he says.

In addition to the DNA database, the project includes a geographic information system component and provides connectivity. "DICOEMS provides medical emergency ontology to identify relevant resources such as hospital rooms and ambulances," says Antikapzidis, noting that the trial will involve about 50 people and be completed early in 2007. "For example, if somebody has a heart attack, this will bring up a list of all the cardiologists who are available in the region," he says.

A messaging module facilitates collaboration between physicians, hospital personnel and ambulance staff, including those actually in the ambulance. "The module uses real-time audio- and video-conferencing so the doctor can see state of the patient, and confer with and give directions to the people in the ambulance," says Antikapzidis. The module comes equipped with a special hands-free camera-fitted helmet for the emergency personnel. An additional component allows remote monitoring of vital signs.

Information Management Group is joined by six other organizations in the project, which received 50 percent of its funding from the European Union, as well as from other groups including the European Medical Association.

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