NEWS

CHEMM-IST to help First Responders Diagnose Chemical Exposure

By Carlton Purvis

 The CHEMM Intelligent Syndromes Tool (CHEMM-IST) is an online decision support tool created by experts in medicine and emergency response as an aid for determining what chemical agent a patient may have been exposed to in a mass casualty incident.

The tool as it stands is a still a prototype, but once out of its testing phase, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the tool will be intended for use in basic and advanced life support operations as well as by first responders diagnosing patients in an emergency involving widespread chemical exposure.

"The whole intent behind the CHEMM Web site in general is really to provide that quick and easy access for responders at the point that they need it," said John Koerner, CBRNE Branch chief at the Divison of Preparedness and Planning at HHS. "Particularly in chemical incidents, we run into the challenge that the health events happen very quickly. One of the important things is that we have valid reliable information with very quick access so that the responders can make informed decisions as to what to do."

CHEMM-IST, developed by Dr. Mark Kirk from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Health Affairs, can aid responders in quickly diagnosing the type of chemical exposure after an attack or chemical spill. "What he's done is devise a sytem that looks at syndromic predictions," Koerner said of Kirk.

"CHEMM-IST assumes that the patient has undergone an exposure via the air, with potential toxic effects from what is inhaled from the air and also possible skin-related toxic effects from what might be deposited onto the skin from the air,” reads the CHEMM Web site.

The online tool uses an interactive flow chart to guide the user through dozens of potential symptoms and based on “Yes” or “No” questions provides a prediction of the most likely syndrome a patient is experiencing.

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