November 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Troops Soon Will Carry Their Medical Records Around Their Necks Computerized Dog Tags Should Improve Care For Soldiers During Deployments

Associated Press
 

U.S. military men and women in the next few years could be issued a dog-tag-like device containing a computerized version of their medical history, medical documents, X-rays and vaccination records, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

“Historically, medical record keeping and documentation has been imperfect, especially during deployments,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Blanck, the Army surgeon general.

He discussed the development of a device known as a “PIC,” or personal information carrier, which would collect large amounts of information using computer chips.

Blanck showed reporters several versions of the small plastic devices, which will be tested by the military in 1998. They are expected to be sent to servicemen and -women in 1999, the general said.

While military forces receive exceptional medical care, keeping good documents at hand while troops are deployed around the world has been a major challenge, Blanck said.

The device will be worn by the service member and updated by medical personnel using portable computers at the time of treatment or examination. Copies of an individual’s records could be stored on computers.

The item also will be able to store information on the environment and the geographic location where a service member was located, so as to assess “when and where individuals might have been exposed to hazardous conditions,” a Pentagon statement said.

One of the major factors in assessing problems reported by Gulf War troops suffering from unexplained ailments has been understanding what chemicals or environmental hazards they may have been exposed to during the conflict, and exactly where they were.

The Pentagon statement said much remains to be done before the computerized system can be implemented.

Blanck said the cost of each device worn by a service member could drop to about 75 cents once full production is reached, but that the cost of the computerized “envelope” that reads the information is about $130 each.

He said he did not have an overall cost figure at hand.

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