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Researchers are creating technology that would improve communication between ambulances and hospitals and may also put "virtual physicians" on board. Such technology would address communication problems created by long distances between patients and hospitals, bad weather, and geographic barriers. Funded by the federal government, the research could help paramedics provide better care on a battlefield.


A fully equipped ambulance would have multiple cameras both inside and out and have several satellite and global positioning system domes on top. With this technology, paramedics could send real-time information about a patient's vital signs and other data to health care providers in a hospital or other remote location. Besides helping paramedics in the field, the hospital-based staff could prepare a trauma room and assemble appropriate personnel to treat the patient immediately upon arrival.


The U.S. Office of Naval Research is funding the research, called the First Responder Emergency Communications-Mobile (FREC-M). A single FREC-M would cost about $250,000-more than three times the cost of an average ambulance.