Etihad latest airline to install remote TeleMedicine technology

With people traveling longer distances, ultra-large aircraft such as the A380, and people of all ages and medical conditions traveling, the probability of a medical emergency occurring in flight has increased over the years. Airlines such as Lufthansa have created ‘Doctors on board’ programs, and many airlines have arrangements with specialised call centres that their aircraft can contact in the event of an in-flight emergency. 

Equipment that puts an ill passenger in touch with a doctor who can see their vital signs and who is trained in trauma medicine, takes this process forward a few steps. Telemedicine systems such as the Tempus IC Telemedicine system from Remote Diagnostic Technologies (RDT) allows a non-medical user to collect and transmit eight key vital signs routinely measured in an emergency room – including blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen, breath gas analysis and heart condition – and pass these together with relevant photographs and video directly to a ground-based medical response center.

A doctor receiving the information can then put together a more thorough diagnosis, and give the captain of the plane better advice about whether a diversion will be necessary. Real-time video contact is made possible by inflight connectivity provider OnAir, and as soon as a Tempus IC call is placed, all other on-board connections will be interupted to ensure the highest priority for the health care device. 

Etihad Airways just announced it will install the Tempus IC system on its long-haul aircraft, and the technology is already being used by Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, BMI and V Australia. RDT claims that using advanced telemedicine services can help avoid one in ten emergency landings, each of which can cost an airline anything between €30,000 and €165,000 depending on aircraft type and situation. The company says flight attendants need only four hours of training before they are ready to use the machine.

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