Popular AFRL invention supports joint military needs with mobile medical documentation

  • Published
  • By Whitney Wetsig
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

A mobile medical documentation tool developed by Air Force Research Laboratory researchers was selected as the joint integrated electronic health record for point-of-injury and en route care by the Joint Operational Medicine Information Systems. Following this announcement at the July 2022 Defense Health Information Technology Symposium in Orlando, Florida, demand for demonstrations of the Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit increased tenfold among military agencies.

BATDOK is a smartphone application that replaces pen and paper records.

“We’ve witnessed a big uptick in BATDOK’s inclusion and adoption into various joint exercises,” said Dr. Gregory Burnett, lead engineer for AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing product development branch. “Each of the services is layering BATDOK into their pipelines and overarching planning strategy for modernizing operational medicine.”

Prior to BATDOK’s selection, the 711th HPW team led roughly two operational exercises per year. After the announcement, they began averaging two exercises per month. As of 2023, BATDOK has been provided for evaluation and testing to all the Department of Defense services, Burnett said. BATDOK has also been tested by allied forces in the United Kingdom, Morocco and Australia.

BATDOK’s selection by JOMIS, a program management office within Defense Healthcare Management Systems, is a testament to the team’s capability development work and testing with end users, Burnett said. JOMIS collects operational medicine requirements from the various services and provides medical information technology for military operations.

"AFRL developed a robust operational medicine tool that has been widely acknowledged by medical commanders as the future of information technology in combat point-of-injury medicine," said Sandra McIntyre, JOMIS program manager. "JOMIS is proud to make BATDOK a primary product in our operational medicine care delivery platform.”

Originally started as an Air Force science and technology initiative in response to an Air Combat Command need for improved battlefield documentation, BATDOK later became a Defense Health Program initiative with funding from Air Force Medical Service. Military medics began evaluating BATDOK in 2016, and the tool deployed operationally in 2019.

“BATDOK takes the burden off the medical provider to establish and manage the wireless sensor connection and process that metadata. It just autonomously documents so [medical providers] can perform the number one mission of caring for casualties.”
Dr. Gregory Burnett, lead engineer for the Product Development Branch, AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing

BATDOK captures medical documentation to include injury types and the treatment provided to the warfighter. To document their observations and actions, medical providers simply touch buttons on a smartphone.

“BATDOK really is an intuitive tool that takes very minimal training to do the basic functions,” said Mike Sedillo, a program analyst and instructor with AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing.

He credits the intuitive nature of BATDOK to feedback received from end users during years of testing.

“It was this constant great relationship with the warfighter that continued to help develop BATDOK,” Sedillo said. “We brought it to various communities, and they offered suggestions.”

Burnett and Sedillo said BATDOK is designed for the joint medical community, not just the Air Force.

“From the onset of BATDOK, we've always looked to the joint forces because medical care is not just tied to one service,” Burnett said. “As a casualty is injured on the battlefield, they move through the care continuum and that, at times, represents all the services.”

Today’s BATDOK has various modes to accommodate the medical provider’s progress and the patient’s needs. The team continues to develop the tool by incorporating additional requirements and even provides an updated version of the BATDOK application every two weeks.

“Every button, menu and look of BATDOK has been designed with the joint community's involvement and end user input,” Burnett said. “This has allowed us to increase the user acceptance as well as its intuitive nature.”

Burnett said combat medics, ground surgical teams and even transport personnel provided valuable input for refining and expanding BATDOK’s capabilities.

“As that casualty [on the battlefield] moves to more definitive care, the documentation and the decision support expands supporting the medical care provider by tailoring the user interface in support of their [immediate] needs,” Burnett said.

While the BATDOK capability was developed within the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Human Effectiveness Directorate, the United States School of Aerospace Medicine also provided support. The BATDOK team engaged with USAFSAM aeromedical evacuation cadre from the schoolhouse to explore ideas and learn about medical documentation needs.

“Having the [Human Effectiveness Directorate] co-located [with USAFSAM] in the wing was a huge benefit,” Burnett said. “The wing has many great thinkers and operational users. This unique combination enabled [the BATDOK team] to explore how to reduce the cognitive workload while optimizing operational mission by engaging with varied subject matter experts.”

The 711 HPW team said the goal of BATDOK is simple: support medical providers and help bring warfighters home.  

“We’re dedicated to making someone else's job easier who is facing the chaos of war,” Burnett said. “With BATDOK, we are providing [medical providers] with a tool that assists in performing the most critical mission: making sure our service members come home alive.”