New device integrates digital data for EMS

LifeBot Slate allows for the live transmission of patient physiological vital signs and trended video, voice, and data

One thing that many of the new medical products hitting the market nowadays have in common is that they are often electronic. However, it can be the case that they lack compatibility and the functionality to talk to your destination facility.

There have only been a few and limited technology tests of pre-hospital telemedicine projects. Proprietary algorithms and hardware limitations have thus far prevented it. But this month, we can take a sneak peek at a potentially groundbreaking solution to this problem, the LifeBot Slate.

The need to take all the physiological data we now have available and transmit it to the ER is one I have commented on before in The Future Look of Medical Communications and Trends in Medical Communications. Somebody has finally done something about it, and produced a new potential solution for field medical data collection and transmission.

Image courtesy of LifeBot
Image courtesy of LifeBot

The new LifeBot Slate is a Hewlett-Packard-based Windows Tablet PC, powered by the DREAMS telemedicine software. DREAMS (Disaster Relief and Emergency Medical Services) telemedicine software was developed with trauma surgeon, James 'Red' Duke, and the U.S. Military.

This system allows for the live transmission of patient physiological vital signs and trended video, voice, and data. Everything is recorded and selectively stored in an on-board SQL database server. This data may then be forwarded or ported to an EHR (Electronic Health Record) system.

LifeBot functions as a seamless integrator for all your digital data into a hand-held device, and then feeds it onward. You can hook up your ECG to it, hook up your vital signs monitor and pulse oximeter, even hook up your electronic stethoscope.

You can also stream video of all this data, your picture, and video of the patient — all at the same time. For the first time, all these machines can "talk" to the ER, and we can stop "talking through" all of this basic data ourselves.

LifeBot has the potential to redistribute hundreds if not thousands of man-hours. Instead of taking two minutes to talk through a patient report, which is typically incomplete, you could see everything almost instantly. On patients with less than critical injuries, this feature will save a lot of wasted time.

For years, we only had one electronic device besides the radio; the Cardiac Defibrillator. Years later we got the Pulse Oximeter, which is today virtually a fifth vital sign.

In general, previous to this, pre-hospital electronics were not well trusted. It hasn't been until recently with the advent of the personal MP3 player, cell phone, e-book, and laptop computer that consumer electronics have really become reliable and far less expensive than ever before. But then a funny thing happened.

As paramedics became more accepted and trusted, the need to send an ECG seemed to diminish. A lot of EMS agencies quit doing it. It seemed like a big headache, often not working very well, with seemingly limited patient benefit.

It rarely changed the care we provided or even changed their destination. Only recently, with the need to transmit 12-leads, have we seen a resurgence of interest in transmitting patient data.

But what if we were talking about a whole lot more than simply sending an ECG? Could physicians lend a hand in unexpected ways on unexpected cases if they could real-time video consult with EMS? I tend to think so. If you do, too, then the LifeBot Slate may be an important breakthrough.

The LifeBot physical package is surprising ergonomic, and somehow intuitive. It feels natural, like grabbing the steering wheel of a car. LifeBot only weighs 1.5 pounds, and it is a little smaller form factor than an Apple I-Pad.

But this compact little device packs an amazing feature — an integrated 3 MP camera which is outward facing, plus an integrated VGA webcam which is inward facing. This provides a display of both the patient and operator in field use. You can also send individual high resolution still images of a troubling injury.

The LifeBOT also features a Gobi chipset, which assures reliable connectivity in most locations. It has the ability to utilize multiple 3G cellular providers like Verizon and Sprint, hopping from one carrier to the next.

The LifeBot is Microsoft Windows 7-based, accepts all popular external cameras, and it is encryption protected to ensure HIPAA compliance. The convenient Slate Docking Station with multiple ports provides you with the ability to plug other devices into the back of your ambulance.

As soon as you dock the Slate, your onboard accessories are ready to go. On the street, the integrated USB connections will do the same thing for your mobile devices.

Imagine a future where you don’t have to say very much because the ER can already see the patient, and their vitals are fine. The physician could also help you on some of your most challenging calls, making a diagnosis that might otherwise be missed.

But it can't happen if they're unable to see and hear the patient, as well as all of their physiological data. If you can transmit all this stuff from a hospital bed to a nurse's station, we sure should be able to send it just a little bit farther. I can think of more than one time it would have saved me a lot of trouble.

I once had this sleazy lawyer show up making false accusations about inappropriate behavior with his 500-plus pound client. I would have given anything for that video that would have proved the claims were false and it would have saved me a lost shift.

Cops have had dashcams for years. But I worry that what few cameras are out there in EMS are in the wrong part of the ambulance, pointed at the wrong subject. I don't want to watch the driver; I want to watch the patient. Yes, it will mean we will always need to be on our best behavior while on camera. But the tradeoff will be less work, better communications and lives saved. How can that be a bad thing?

For more information on the new device, visit call 877-466-1422.

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