Coronavirus | COVID-19 Updates

Air Force Research Laboratory modifying pararescue medical tool to treat COVID-19 patients

The Air Force Research Laboratory is developing technology so healthcare providers at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center can monitor up to two dozen COVID-19 patients’ vital signs — all from a smartphone.

The tool is based off of a concept the Air Force pararescue, or PJ, community recently started using called the Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit, known as BATDOK.

“One of the struggles doctors and nurses are having in highly-affected hospitals right now is similar to what PJs deal with — a high ratio of patients assigned to a low ratio of medical personnel,” Dr. Greg Burnett, Airman-Machine Integration Product Line lead in AFRL, said in an Air Force news release. “Add in the contagion element, and our team saw the emergent need to adapt our medical monitoring tool for widespread use so that multiple patients could be cared for remotely.”

BATDOK is an Android application and was first deployed operationally approximately a year ago. But now, it has the potential to allow medical personnel to monitor up to 24 patient’s oxygen saturation and pulse — and could cut down the amount of times personnel change out of personal protective equipment after checking on patients one by one, according to WPMC’s Internal Medicine director Dr. Roger Shih.

Although the tool originally tailored for the PJ community included combat casualty care features, those have been stripped for this modified version while simultaneously keeping features such as secured networked data dissemination.

Last month the Air Force Research Laboratory launched the first phase of testing of the modified BATDOK at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, meaning that a patient will have their vitals monitored via traditional methods along with BATDOK by attaching a sensor to the pulse oximeter that goes on patients’ fingers.

There are a total of three testing phases, and it’s uncertain how long each period will last.

While nurses typically keep track of patient’s vitals at a telemetry station, BATDOK is also designed to allow nurses greater flexibility to keep track of patients from anywhere in the unit via an app on a cell phone, Maj. Gary Webb said.

“The benefit of this is that if an alarm is going off, the nurse can immediately look at the BATDOK app to see which alarm has sounded and address it,” said Webb, WPMC Medical Surgical Unit flight commander. “It saves much needed time in this situation."

According to the Air Force, 367 airmen have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 201 civilians, 228 dependents, and 78 contractors.

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