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NATO and Russia to develop a remote medical services system

Telemedicine is the use of modern communication technologies to exchange real-time medical information from a patient to a doctor separated by distance. Through a telemedicine system a remote medical specialist is able to assess a patient, determine a diagnosis, and provide timely recommendations to an on-site caregiver or first responder in an emergency situation.

NATO and Russia will seek to develop a multinational system utilising telecommunications to provide health care at a distance, including an international network of medical specialists. It will improve access to medical services and increase survival rates during emergency situations.

 “With a capability like telemedicine doctors can remotely decide which casualties can be treated on site and which casualties should be immediately evacuated,” said Dr Raed Arafat, Romanian Secretary of State for the Ministry of Interior and the NATO Director for this project. “This will prevent the costly emergency evacuation of stable patients and allow doctors to know the vital signs of patients en-route, saving both time and money.”

In developing this capability NATO-Russia Council (NRC) countries will increase the medical knowledge available on the ground when it matters most. “Security threats are changing and the reality is that today’s security challenges and disasters know no boundaries,” Dr Serghei Goncharov, Russian Project Director for Telemedicine stressed. “Emergency situations affect us all and a multinational telemedicine system can ensure that medical care and disaster response also know no boundaries,” he added.

Connecting national telemedicine systems

A team of Allied and Russian experts is now looking at developing telemedicine as a multinational capability under the NRC-Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Committee. “What we must understand is that the area of telemedicine is not new,” said Dr Arafat.  “In fact, many Allies – like Romania, the United States, and Germany – and partners like Russia already have this capability at a national level. For example, Romania holds one of the most complex national telemedicine systems in Europe. The problem is we do not have this capability at a multinational level,” he explained.

Over the next two years the project team will work to connect three national telemedicine systems – from Romania, the Russian Federation and the United States – and will conclude with a proof of concept exercise to test the capability by 2016.

In developing this capability, NRC countries will be able to extend medical expertise to those in need by allowing remote specialists and experts to provide professional care where it would not ordinarily have been available.

On 13 February 2014, a high-level kick-off meeting on telemedicine was held at NATO Headquarters and attended by over 70 participants. “I believe that this project has a great future ahead,” commented Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General, Emerging Security Challenges Division, NATO and Chairman of the NRC-SPS Committee. He continued, “It has high-level political backing and an incredible pool of scientists and experts. Today, NATO prioritises ensuring greater security for fewer resources through increased cooperation and efficiency.  Telemedicine is Smart Medicine”.

Strengthening cooperation

“Scientific cooperation is one of the most promising vectors for NATO-Russia cooperation.  This is an area where we can deliver tangible results and I am sure that our experiences in this project will be useful for other countries and organisations looking to improve multinational assistance in emergency situations in the future”, said Ambassador Alexander Grushko, Head of the Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO.

The development of this project follows a series of workshops held over the past two years in Bucharest and Moscow. The initiative was first conceived in 2010, when Russia presented a proposal to the NRC-SPS Committee.


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