Surgeons Linked to Remote Trauma Patients in Pilot Project

May 03, 2011

May 3, 2011 — When someone is injured in a car crash in Key West, Florida, emergency personnel using a wireless tablet computer and a high-definition video camera can bring trauma specialists who are 130 miles away in Miami virtually to the scene.

This live electronic consult helps trauma surgeons decide whether the patient can be treated at the town hospital or requires a 1-hour, $10,000 helicopter ride to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. If the trip is warranted, the center can assemble the necessary team to care for the patient as well as give advice to emergency personnel on how to tend to the injuries en route, said Antonio Marttos, MD, in a presentation today at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) 16th Annual International Meeting.

"I believe telemedicine can provide good-quality care 24/7 everywhere in the world," said Dr. Marttos, an assistant professor of surgery and director of trauma telemedicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Dr. Marttos oversees a $100,000 pilot project funded by the state of Florida to connect emergency personnel and clinicians in Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States, with physicians such as himself at Ryder Trauma Center. Famous as the haunt of novelist Ernest Hemingway and singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett, Key West boasts a fine hospital, said Dr. Marttos, but the facility lacks a trauma surgeon or a neurologist on call. Telemedicine technology, he said, allows local emergency responders and Miami specialists to deliver life-saving interventions to patients within the "golden hour" after the trauma, when the odds of success are the highest.

Dr. Marttos said he hopes that the pilot project eventually will grow into a statewide network for trauma telemedicine. Such a network, he said, will shrink the gap in medical care between rural and urban areas and provide "good care everywhere."

American Telemedicine Association (ATA) 16th Annual International Meeting. Presented May 3, 2011.

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