US Army Turns to Computer Software for Medic Training

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Technology already has pushed medical and emergency responder training well beyond the days of mock wounds and static mannequins.

New software designed for Army medical training allows personnel to see in real-time the effect of their treatments on the bodies of virtual patients and high-tech mannequins.

Combat Medic, developed for the service by Applied Research Associates, places trainees in a 3-D collaborative world where they learn to treat the three injuries most associated with preventable battlefield deaths — hemorrhage, blocked airways and collapsed lungs.

Now, a new ARA software program funded in part by the Army intends to significantly advance that training via a downloadable “physiology engine” that allows medical personnel see how their actions affect every other aspect of their patient’s physiology.

And not only in a virtual world, but with high-tech mannequins, according to Jenn Carter, senior scientist and project manager for new program, called BioGears.

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“Let’s say a person is performing CPR on a mannequin,” Carter said. “That mannequin [is set up to] detect things like pressure and the speed of your hands. We can correlate that pressure and speed to the driver in our physiology engine … and as that person is treating the mannequin we can have a model saying this is what’s happening to blood pressure, this is what’s happening to the respiration rate, this is how the patient is responding to your actions.”

A great deal of military medical training is now conducted using sophisticated gaming systems and virtual reality, with the trainee personnel “in front of a laptop or with a mouse, keyboard or joystick, and interacting with virtual patients in the computer,” she said.

With the new software, not only will they be able to train to perform various procedures, but immediately see the affects actions and treatments have on the patient.

The Defense Medical Research Development Program put $7 million up for the new software, which not only may be downloaded into DoD’s existing virtual reality and mannequin training system, but by the broader public because it is open source.

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“All the models we are creating can be downloaded for free by anyone … to create immersive training,” Carter said. “What the [project team] is hoping is that this physiology engine becomes the standard for physiology simulations, so that anybody in the future who creates a medical training game for the military can take and use BioGears in that.”

“Physiology serves as the foundation for any medical simulation you have out there,” said Matthew Hackett, science and technology manager with the Army Research Laboratory. “[This software] allows anyone in the military, DoD-wide, to take this as a building block [for simulation] and not have to do that from scratch every single time.”

This means a cost savings to the military, since programs will not have to be rebuilt each time for different kinds of simulations, he said.

It’s also good from the industry standpoint because, as open source, “more people can get into the ballgame” to build simulation programs, he said.

-Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is an associate editor and White House correspondent for Military.com. Bryant covers all corners of the military arena, is an expert on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" issues, religious proselytizing and other ongoing military policy issues. He has covered Air Force support missions during the Kosovo War and in 2006 the aero-medical evacuation mission out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.A journalist since 1979, Jordan also covered stories in Lebanon, Gaza and Morocco. During the Vietnam War he was assigned to 15th Admin. Co., 1st Cavalry Division, Bien Hoa Army Base. Before joining Military.com Jordan was a staff writer and deputy news editor for Military Timesnewspapers in Springfield, Va.

5 Comments on "US Army Turns to Computer Software for Medic Training"

  1. The changes that have taken place in the training of combat medics is amazing. I wish we had all the new tools the medics of this era have. I went through medic training at Fort Sam in 1967. They have so many more tools to help them save guys both on the battlefield, and in the MASH. Or what ever they're called today. Just the clotting powder that medics carry today, would have saved a lot of lives back then. But the work being done in the forward hospitals is nothing short of unbelievable back in the day.

  2. I wish I had this training also. I went through Ft Sam in 1969, held there for 2 months after graduation until i turned 18 and they gave me orders for Viet Nam as my Birthday present. Therefore I gained most of my experience in the jungles of Nam.

  3. William Vance | August 5, 2015 at 8:13 pm | Reply

    I went through 91A (Medical Specialist) and 91B30 (SuperMedic) training at Fort Sam in the late 80's. The mullage kits and make up was a real asset to the training. Adding in this new technology out to ensure that the medics of today get the feel of the patients as they truly are. Nothing beats repetitive training and actually seeing, feeling and hearing the patient and their ailments. Go Medics

  4. I would like to use software to train people. SR

  5. You enrolled for the surgeons. Didn't you hear Bill Cosby's collection about his time as doctor. In the wake of listening to him. I chose "I beyond any doubt wouldn't have any desire". Be that as it may, in the wake of taking the tests at Fort Knox. What's more, having a meeting where they asked me what I needed to do. I said anything other than infantry, or doctors. Furthermore, since i had involvement in gadgets. I was certain I would get into the sign corps. Thanks!

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