IBM and Beacon Equity Partners have joined Medweb, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the Government of Tristan da Cunha in announcing the successful implementation of "Project Tristan". This tested and proven remote medical solution combines medical equipment, satellite communications and remotely supported electronic health-record (EHR) technology, allowing medical experts from anywhere in the world to assist island clinicians in their daily practices with medical diagnoses and emergency support.
Until recently, the island's only physician, Dr. Carel Van der Merwe, has had to rely upon minimal technology and limited medical support. Working from a hospital without so much as its own telephone to provide care for patients, he has often performed life-saving diagnoses and procedures without proper equipment or specialized expertise. Lacking a communications system that could accept e-mail attachments, help in interpreting X-Rays or EKGs, he has depended on digital images scanned, printed and faxed to specialists thousands of miles away, delaying diagnoses by days. With no airstrip on the island, emergency evacuation or outside medical intervention has been and remains today virtually impossible.
Project Tristan was conceived by Edward Mullen, Chairman of Beacon Equity Partners, and Paul Grundy, MD, MPH, and IBM's Director of Healthcare Technology and Strategic Initiatives, as a way to honour the memory of a close friend, Thomas Weiss. It was implemented with the guidance and support of UPMC, as well as of Dr. Richard Bakalar, Chief Medical Officer for IBM, who also established the Navy's first integrated Telemedicine Office at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, prior to joining IBM. Dr. Bakalar is also President of the American Telemedicine Association.
Project Tristan, which is based on open standards and runs on the Linux Operating System, is expected to greatly enhance the island's level of medical care and standard of living. The island's physician is now able to electronically capture and share medical data and information, including X-Rays and EKGs as well as pulmonary function evaluations and video camera examinations with physician consultants. Satellite communications will enable clinicians to provide real-time diagnostic advice and suggested treatments to the attending physician.
"The ability to share medical data quickly and easily will be a life saver for our residents", stated Dr. Van der Merwe. "By joining forces, IBM, Beacon Equity Partners, Medweb and UPMC have not only created the capability to bring critical, patient-centric care to our remote island, but also to other distant locations around the world - on land or sea - that require constant connection to expert medical resources."
Contributions from each team member were as follows:
- IBM: Solution co-development, integration and project management for the telemedicine system provided to Tristan da Cunha. Products and services included staffing, on-site installation of the system - requiring a 25 day service call because of the limited means of getting to the island, financial resources, IBM xSeries servers provided to Medweb and high-resolution monitors.
- Beacon Equity Partners: Co-development of the concept and and funding for the project.
- Medweb: Medweb servers and software and additional medical input devices including a computed radiography system for digital X-Ray; integration of ECG, digital cameras, spirometry and video conferencing capabilities; configuration and testing, remote installation, training and sustained support services on an ongoing basis, including primary technical and help desk services.
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: With its widely recognized experience in telemedicine in the United States and abroad, UPMC volunteered to help plan and implement Project Tristan. Additionally, UPMC offered clinical professional service to the island, including medical consultations on request; secure and reliable access to robust and comprehensive multimedia medical data on Tristan patients from the Medweb Telemedicine solution; and ongoing remote training to support Project Tristan as needed.
- SOAPwareR: Project Tristan features cutting-edge, remotely supported Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology courtesy of SOAPware Inc. This solution has more installed sites and in use in more nations than any other.