Development and Validation of Telemedicine for Disaster Response: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Multinational System

Telemed J E Health. 2018 Sep;24(9):657-668. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0237. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


Background: Disasters, whether natural or manmade, are unpredictable. While there may be some forewarning as in natural disasters like a hurricane, response is often suboptimal. There is a need for an integrated and structured action for all three well defined phases of disaster management (pre-, during, and postdisaster) that must be addressed to ameliorate the impact on life and the necessary steps for recovery. Over the past several decades, telemedicine has been integrated in some form of disaster response. This adoption and integration has been shown to be effective. Since 2013, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), under the auspices of the Science for Peace and Security Programme, has worked on developing a Multinational Telemedicine System (MnTS) for disaster response.

Methods: A group of subject matter experts from Europe and the United States developed the MnTS by establishing the network and a concept of operations, to be used in disaster management between countries.

Results: An integrated system, including personnel, hardware, communication protocols, portable power generation, medical kits, and Web-based tools, was developed and successfully tested in the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre's Exercises Ukraine 2015. The field exercise tested and validated the MnTS and identified areas of improvement. The system and its evaluation provide additional information for establishing deployment capabilities.

Conclusions: A MnTS approach to telemedicine in disaster response and management is possible and should be further advanced.

Keywords: disaster response; disasters; international collaboration; telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Disasters*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Smartphone
  • Systems Integration
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*
  • Telemedicine / standards
  • United States