Homeland Security Apes Star Trek : Shots - Health News Homeland Security's new Tricorder (medical scanner) can do "triage at 20 paces." But is it as good as the real McCoy?
NPR logo Homeland Security Apes Star Trek

Homeland Security Apes Star Trek

Poor Bones. Even with his fancy schmancy medical monitor, the tricorder," Star Trek's cranky doc spent so much time pronouncing patients dead throughout the 1960s TV series that "He's dead, Jim," became an iconic line in the show.

Maybe Dr. Leonard McCoy would have had better luck if he'd had a little tool the Department of Homeland Security is working on. The Standoff Patient Triage Tool or SPTT (couldn't they have just called it a Tricorder-Plus?) is sensitive enough to "capture" somebody's temperature, heart rate and respiration from up to 40 feet away.

The device is still in development. But according to the DHS, it uses instant "triage at twenty paces," which could be useful to firefighters and other first-responders as they arrive at, say, a building collapse, a train wreck, or some other disaster with many dead and wounded, where it can be hard to get your hands on the patients. In theory, the DHS says, the tool will also be faster than traditional triage, which "can take 3-5 minutes."

Don't try and send away for one yourself. Homeland Security says the prototypes won't be ready for testing by first responders until this fall, at the earliest. And as Christopher McStay, and E.R. doc from NYU noted in an interview with Scientific American, the recorder doesn't measure blood pressure or the amount of oxygen in the blood -- two key markers of a patient's viability. As Dr. McStay told SciAm,

The technology is not ready for prime time now. But I can see its potential for further applications.

Speaking of prime time--here's our favorite YouTube tribute (go ahead, sing along) to "the Federation's" favorite doctor.

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