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Lessons from the use of telemedicine in the austere military environment and the implications for deployed surgical teams


Over the last 20 years, there have been significant changes in UK surgical training. Civilian surgical training may no longer prepare military surgeons for the range of skills they require on operations. One method to address gaps in knowledge or experience is to use telemedicine to facilitate specialist consultations from UK-based specialists to deployed medical teams. In the UK Defence Medical Services (DMS), this capability is called real-time clinical support (RTCS). RTCS provides a direct audio-visual link from a deployed location anywhere in the world to a supporting medical specialist in the UK. RTCS is currently delivered via a combination of off-the-shelf hardware and commercially available software. This article will outline the current use of RTCS, with emphasis on deployed surgical teams in austere environments, and discuss the advantages and limitations of this capability. However, it must be emphasised that no technology can be a substitute for clinical training and experience. Although several limitations remain, the authors believe that RTCS offers potential benefits for the DMS and could be an important tool aiding deployed clinicians. It can also be argued that by engaging with the concept now, the DMS can shape future developments in this sphere.

  • Telemedicine
  • Trauma management

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