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uni'wissen 02-2012 ENG

Ultrasonic devices analyze organic tissue, cardiographs check the patients’ heart rates, magnetic resonance imaging tomographs scan their bodies: The use of modern computer tech- nology has improved medical diagnostics and brought health care a huge step forward. Now new technologies are also finding their way into the area of emergency care. A handheld com- puter equipped with Internet-based software has the potential to revolutionize immediate rescue operations at large-scale accidents. However, the use of the device also harbors risks. A team of sociologists led by Prof. Dr. Stefan Kaufmann from the University of Freiburg is conducting a field study on the professional and societal con- sequences of advances in medical technology. Emergency at the Frankfurt Airport: A passen- ger machine has collided with a smaller jet while landing. Next to the wreck lie injured passengers. Debris is strewn about, complicating the rescue work. Firefighters are freeing the victims with welding equipment and angle grinders. In addi- tion to brute force, however, sensitive technology is also in use: The rescue workers are carrying so-called personal digital assistants (PDAs), tiny Internet-enabled computers the size of a pocket calculator that can be used to quickly measure and store data on patients, such as their pulse, breathing, and the severity of their injury. The devices transfer the data instantly to the com- mander of operations. Information concerning “Our study focuses on the functionality of new technologies in emergency medicine and their suitability for daily use” the situation at the scene of the accident can thus be collected at a central location faster than ever before. Drill with 1,000 Participants Not everything goes off without a hitch, be- cause the instrument is new and the emergency personnel are not yet used to it. However, mis- takes in entering the data don’t have any nega- tive consequences – at least not yet. “The airplane accident was only a simulated catastro- phe scenario,” explains Stefan Kaufmann. “More than 1,000 firefighters, paramedics, and amateur actors participated in this emergency drill, mak- ing it the largest ever.” It was the first big drill to be conducted within the context of the research project “Sofortrettung bei Großunfall – SOGRO” (Instant Rescue in Large-Scale Accidents), which was launched in 2009 to explore new strategies in emergency medical care for accident victims. “Our study focuses on the functionality of new technologies in emergency medicine and their suitability for daily use,” says Kaufmann, one of the partners in the project, which is being coordi- nated by the German Red Cross in Frankfurt. “We sociologists are concentrating particularly on the changes that take place at the rescue and command levels during large-scale disasters.” In early 2012 the researchers conducted a some- what smaller emergency drill in a Frankfurt sports hall involving the collapse of a grandstand. Simulated airplane crash: The rescue crew receives quick and reliable information on free capacities at nearby hospitals. This speeds up the process of distributing the injured among the hospitals. 9