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But the technology could take longer than traditional triage methods.
Image has been cropped and resized. Courtesy of Flickr user Marco Verch.
Triage, the examination and ranking of large numbers of wounded victims, is intrinsic to disaster relief. Yet triage algorithms, meant to ensure efficiency, are often used incorrectly or cast aside. A recent study, which examined an Android app developed for use with smart glasses, found that augmented reality can help.
The results, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, suggested that accuracy increased when paramedics used smart glasses to assign patients to a triage category. But these assessments took almost twice as long as traditional triage methods.
The project, Augmented Disaster Medicine (AUDIME), was financed by the German Federal Government with the hope of aiding relief workers in mass casualty incidents. The study relied upon a simulation in which 31 experienced paramedics completed 362 assessments. Twelve professional actors, pretending to be injured patients, were split into three groups.
The first group was treated with the aid of the Primary Ranking for Initial Orientation in Rescue service (PRIOR) pre-triage algorithm, which was displayed via smart glasses. The second group was treated with telemedical aid. Here, the smart glasses used an integrated camera to allow a remote senior physician to communicate with onsite paramedics.
Meanwhile, a control group was treated using conventional methods. In order to use the PRIOR algorithm, paramedics either had to recall it from memory or consult a printed pocket card, which none did.
Lead researcher Andreas Follmann, M.D., in the Department of Anaesthesiology at the University Hospital RWTH Aachen, said familiarity with smart glasses may increase if civilians begin wearing them in their daily lives. “We believe that only a regular use of the technology and a routine here can shorten the time.”
Paramedics encountered obstacles during the simulation, such as the fact that the AUDIME system relies on a local Wi-Fi connection. Yet Follmann is optimistic that technological advances, such as 5G, will make the need for Wi-Fi obsolete. “I believe that in a few years many rescue and fire brigade vehicles will be able to generate a local hotspot to enable interoperability between the installed technical devices.”
Other issues included low battery capacity and incompatibility between smart glasses and personal eyeglasses, requiring eyeglass-wearing paramedics to buy special lenses. Follmann says that recent technological developments now allow monitors with cameras to be placed inside personal eyeglasses. “Especially in the fire department and rescue service, it would also be conceivable that the monitor and the camera are integrated directly into the helmet.”
The rarity of larger disaster missions renders greater financial benefits unlikely. “Above all, the high purchase price is an obstacle to use it in civil protection.”
Even with the uncertainty of large-scale economic benefits and the aforementioned obstacles, Follmann is certain that this technology has the potential to aid both paramedics and volunteers who have not received medical training. “Due to the lack of routine, situations such as triage are very stressful and every meaningful help should be used.”
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