TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES – Japanese medics working to help victims of the Philippines typhoon have deployed wireless mobile X-ray kits using tablet computers, a world first in a disaster zone, a team spokesman said Saturday.
The technology, which was developed after the huge tsunami that devastated large parts of the Tohoku region in 2011, allows doctors to take a look inside patients instantly, and even lets them enlarge the image with familiar iPad gestures.
Joji Tomioka, coordinator of the Japan Medical Team for Disaster Relief, said the system had been created in response to what doctors needed in the aftermath of the March 2011 disasters.
“This is the first time that we are deploying it in a disaster situation,” Tomioka said at a modern tent medical clinic put up by the Japanese government to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
At the partly air-conditioned clinic in the ruined city of Tacloban, a radiologist placed a camera on the chest of 72-year-old Carlos Llosa as he sat in his wheelchair.
The X-ray image was instantaneously transmitted through a wireless router to an iPad and to a nearby laptop. With a thumb and a finger, the doctor was able to zoom in for a more detailed view of the problem area.
Japan’s 26-strong medical team includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists, cardiologists and medical technicians. The outfit is able to provide medicine and carry out minor surgery.
Tomioka said Japanese medical experts are seeing about 200 patients a day as part of a large international aid effort to reach the millions of people affected by one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. The United Nations says 4,460 people are now known to have died when the ferocious storm hit. On Saturday, it said that 2.5 million people still “urgently” require food.
“The Philippines helped us during our hour of need in the tsunami,” Tomioka said, referring to the global outpouring of sympathy in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which cost more than 18,000 lives. “Now it’s our turn to give back.”