Battlefield handhelds improve patient care

US military's MC4 program creates 5 million electronic medical records in five years

Mansfield's experience with MC4 compares to Army Master Sgt. Wynton Hodges' tale of using the system as both medic and patient. In 2006, he was trained as a medic to use Motorola's MC70 and Hewlett-Packard's Ipaq handheld computers to gather injury data in the battlefield in Iraq.

"You can imagine what it must have been like 20 years ago if a doctor had to rely on an injured patient to give their own medical history," Hodges said. "Now we have a system that allows us to see first hand what type of treatment was received" moments ago as well as long in the past.

The value of the system became evident to Hodges when he was on a mission in Iraq one day and broke an ankle. All the data from that treatment was electronically recorded, and became invaluable a year later when he was stateside and examined for leg pain that eventually turned out to be a blood-related ailment unrelated to the ankle injury.

"What was key for me was that over a year later, I couldn't possibly remember all the procedures I had gone through as an injured soldier, but I had the electronic database," he said.

Hodges said concerns about the privacy of his electronic medical records "don't worry me at all, because only certain people have access to the records and there are a lot of safeguards."

The military's investment is well worth the benefits in greater efficiencies in care, but also in terms of giving soldiers and other military personnel an accurate record to use years later, Steen said. With good medical records, a veteran could obtain care under veteran's benefits that he or she might otherwise have to pay for out-of-pocket or through another insurance plan, he added.

After the Gulf War in the 1990s, Congress and then-President Clinton in 1997 laid out plans for a medical tracking system for military personnel on the battlefield, which led to the creation of MC4. The program was in response to thousands of Gulf War service members who returned without proof of combat-related injuries and illnesses, resulting in loss of benefits, according to MC4's Web site.

Steen said that MC4's annual operations cost is US$10 million a year, which includes support to users in the field and to maintain hardware and software. As the program expands, that cost will increase, he said. Steen could not provide a figure for the military's capital investment in purchasing equipment, which could be US$10 million for 26,000 pieces of hardware at a minimum of US$400 apiece, the minimum cost of a typical handheld computer without many custom features.

MC4 has managed to control its costs by using commercially available hardware, as well as software provided free in a US Department of Defense program that allows sharing of health care software already being used at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington but tailored for battlefield uses, Steen added.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Hamblen

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?