BMI British Midland has installed a new telemedicine system on its planes flying long-haul flights to provide improved care to patients should they become ill in flight.

The airline has introduced the Tempus 2000, a passenger health monitoring system, developed by Hampshire-based Remote Diagnostic Technologies (RDT), on transatlantic flights from Manchester.

In the event of an in-flight medical emergency, the BMI crew will connect the Tempus system to the aircraft’s satellite phones and transmit the passenger’s vital signs – such as pulse rate, blood oxygen levels, temperature, blood pressure and 12-lead Electrocardiogram (ECG) – as well as video images to a 24-hour ground-based medical support team, MedLink, based in Arizona, USA.

This data is then sent, via the inflight phone system, to specialist physicians in the accident and emergency department of the central teaching hospital in Phoenix, Arizona who can advise the crew of the best course of action.

The Tempus 2000 system is said to be capable of handling almost any in-flight medical incident – such as a child with asthma, a woman with angina, or a businessman experiencing a panic attack.

Senior BMI transatlantic crews have undergone extensive training on the device and are already accustomed to using the MedLink service.

Now, if there is a medical problem during a flight, senior cabin crew will carry the small portable case to the passenger requiring assistance, connect to the satellite telephone system and then, while speaking directly to the emergency physician, will send whatever medical measurements are needed.

The telemedicine system is the first remote medical monitoring device designed specifically for non-expert use during any medical incident onboard an aircraft. It includes an integrated voice link and unique patented technology, ADR, which flight tests have proven to be essential to solve the problem of ensuring reliable data communication over the aircraft’s satellite links.

Captain Graham Cresswell, chief medical officer at BMI said: "Tempus 2000 moves the management of in-flight medical problems onto an altogether different level of sophistication and gives us great confidence that we can look after our passengers in the best way possible."

RDT Managing Director, Graham Murphy said: “Tempus 2000 provides the right diagnostic information to enable fast, informed medical decisions by ground-based experts. This ensures passengers always receive the highest standard of care, while helping prevent stressful and disruptive “false alarm" medical diversions."

Austin Reid, chief executive officer at BMI added: "By installing this ground breaking system on our transatlantic services from Manchester, we are able to ensure that the best possible medical advice is available to our passengers whilst making the transatlantic crossing, irrespective of the aircraft’s altitude or distance from land."