Next Up With NETCCN?

September 30, 2020  |  Download PDF

National Emergency Tele-Critical Care Network

As described in last quarter’s TATRC Times Newsletter, TATRC’s National Emergency Tele-Critical Care Network project began in March, with a challenge from MRDC’s Commander: “What can TATRC do to address the COVID pandemic?”

TATRC quickly developed a proposal to support the delivery of tele-critical care to places that lacked sufficient capacity to manage “surges” of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms. With initial funding from the CARES Act through MRDC, TATRC leveraged and utilized the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium Other Transaction Authority (MTEC OTA) and the use of the CMS Alliance to Modernize Healthcare Federally Funded Research and Development Center (Health FFRDC). TATRC and its partners set out on an aggressive plan to prototype, validate and bring teams consisting of clinicians and tele-critical care platforms to the fight against COVID.


In support of COVID-19 surge response, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s (USAMRDC) Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) has begun to deploy teams from its National Tele-Critical Care Network (NETCCN) project to COVID hot spots in Guam, South Dakota, Minnesota, Puerto Rico and other locations.

Based on cellular communication networks, mobile technologies and cloud computing, NETCCN teams consist of critical care clinicians and technology partners who are collaboratively developing cloud-based, low-resource, stand-alone health information management systems for the creation and coordination of flexible and extendable “virtual critical care wards.” These high acuity, virtual wards bring high-quality critical care capability to nearly every bedside, be it healthcare facilities, field hospitals, or other locations that lack adequate critical care expertise and resources necessary for care of severe COVID-19 illnesses.

Shortly after deployment, over 235 local and distance clinicians have downloaded and begun using a NETCCN platform to manage nearly 100 patients in a hospital or at home, with users conducting over 2,400 synchronous (live video) and asynchronous (messages) exchanges through the platforms.

“When we started the NETCCN project a few months ago, we challenged our performers to empower clinicians to deliver ‘anywhere to anywhere’ tele-critical care functionality by downloading a simple-to-use smartphone app. Our NETCCN teams have done just that, as evidenced by the rapid adoption, use and integration of NETCCN platforms into the COVID fight,” said TATRC Director, COL Jeremy Pamplin.

TATRC is completing a final stage of validation with its NETCCN performers before additional scaling in support of COVID surge response. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and TATRC recently established a four-year memorandum of understanding (MOA) to fund the acceleration and scale up of NETCCN. The agreement between HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and TATRC provides $45 million in initial funding for the transition of the NETCCN platform from a TATRC research and development effort, to an ASPR-led operational deployment solution.

“NETCCN represents the future of disaster response and, for that matter, healthcare,” said Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “In the past, not having enough critical care specialists or other qualified clinicians to provide care in a large-scale emergency required physical deployment of clinicians to where they were needed. Adding virtual care solutions to our response portfolio accelerates and expands our ability to respond to hot spots and defeat COVID-19 as well as other future emergencies.” The MOA between ASPR and TATRC is effective through 28 September 2024. The agreement also creates a collaborative partnership between ASPR and TATRC for studying and improving the impact of digital health applications that support disaster healthcare.

“TATRC and the military have extensive experience in delivering care and virtual care to frontline caregivers on the battlefield and in the most austere conditions. This partnership not only brings this experience to the fight against COVID, but establishes a learning ecosystem through which we can apply lessons learned to advance our national response capabilities and care for our soldiers around the globe,” said BG Michael Talley, Commanding General of MRDC.

TATRC’s current four NETCCN clinical-technical teams include:

  • Avera Health partnered with VitelNet, and DocBox
  • Deloitte Consulting, LLP partnered with AWS GovCloud, Decisio Health, Elsevier, Qventus, T6 Health System, Verizon, and Zyter
  • Expressions Network, LLC partnered with Mercy ACO Clinical Services, Active Innovations, and SDSE Networks
  • The Geneva Foundation partnered with Omnicure, Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) Discovery Network, DocBox, MD PnP Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC)/Telemedical Research for Operational Support (TR4OS)

This article was published in the January 2021 issue of the TATRC Times.