Information technology  

US Army deploys digital medical records in Afghanistan

19 April 2006

Fort Detrick, Md, USA. The US Army's 14th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) has begun using its Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4) systems, marking the first time deployed medical forces in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) will have digital medical recording technology at their fingertips. MC4 will equip the 14th CSH, Forward Surgical Teams (FSTs) and other units in Afghanistan with more than 500 systems, on which they’ve already been trained to use during their Joint Task Force Hurricane Katrina operations in 2005.

“The MC4 notebook computer will be a welcome addition to the surgical wards,” said Colonel Jeff Haun, Commander of the 14th CSH. “I’m glad the Army Medical Department Center and School and the Information Management/Information Technology (IM/IT) communities have come together to deliver a multitask platform for the efficient documentation of electronic heath records that is more in synch with business process, via the integrated MC4 desktop.”

In February, the 14th CSH assumed its predecessors’ (249th General Hospital) business practices by continuing to record and share medical information the old fashioned way — on paper.

“This integration of off-the-shelf software and links at the desktop level should reduce the time users spend downloading and installing applications on their own,” Haun said. “The ‘swivel chair business process’ can be reduced because the number of computers needed to ‘swivel back and forth’ is cut down.”

MC4 uses a suite of software packages to ensure a comprehensive, life-long medical record can be created and maintained. These include medical surveillance electronic medical record; patient accountability; medical regulating; medical reference; office automation; medical logistics; and reporting, communications and security.

Hardware includes handheld computers, laptops, servers, label printers and laser printers. The current handheld computer is an HP iPAQ 4700 with a rugged case, universal cradle and an expansion battery pack. This is used as a point-of-care device for recording, storing, retrieving and transferring patient data to a laptop.

The laptop used is the "ruggedised" Panasonic Toughbook CF 48 and CF 51 notebook computers with accessories such as a mobile surge protector and handheld barcode scanner. The notebook is also used as a server in some situations.  In larger facilities such as Combat Support Hospitals the HP DL380 ProLiant G3 and G4 servers are used with ProCurve Switches and CISCO 2600 routers.

Printers used are the Intermec 3400E Label Printer for pharmaceutical labels and HP LaserJet 1320n and Lexmark Optra T634N printers in the server hardware configurations. Accessories for these include a thermally protected step-down transformer and a ruggedized printer transit case.

In addition to a comprehensive medical IM/IT system, the 14th CSH gains six MC4 support personnel to train medical personnel and sustain the system as needed.

“The most important product we offer is not our software or hardware — it’s our support to the customer,” said LTC Edward Clayson, MC4 Product Manager. “MC4’s focus in OEF will be to support the 14th CSH’s and other units’ missions at hand.”

In 2005, MC4 fielded more than 6,500 systems into Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, in addition to enabling the 86th CSH to become the first deployed hospital in the history of U.S. warfare to electronically capture Service members’ healthcare treatments in Iraq by using a joint medical software system. In February, MC4 was recognized for these efforts, earning the following awards:

  • 2005 Army Medical Department Mercury IM/IT Team of the Year Award
  • 2005 Military Health System, Army Medical Information Systems Information Management Team of the Year Award
  • Top 20 Federal IM/IT Program award by the American Council for Technology

Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4) develops, fields and supports a medical information management system for Army tactical medical forces, enabling a comprehensive, life-long electronic medical record for all service members, and enhancing medical situational awareness for operational commanders. Headquartered at Fort Detrick, Md., MC4 is under the oversight of the Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) at Fort Belvoir, Va.

For more information on MC4, visit 

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