3 insights into how NASA uses telemedicine in space

Astronauts on NASA's International Space Station use telemedicine to reach healthcare services, particularly during long-duration exploratory missions, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Here are three foundational steps NASA's Human Health and Performance team takes to ensure space crews have access to medical support in space.

1. Planning. A ground team of NASA physicians, biomedical engineers, nurses, imaging specialists and psychologists plan the medical support capabilities for each mission based on a range of factors, including flight duration, launch modes and medical evacuation. The final telemedicine plan for each mission brings together on-board equipment, remote protocols and tested communications systems.

2. Training. All astronauts undergo training to manage their own healthcare, including learning emergency responses to common medical problems. Although medical assets and equipment are on board, there will not always be a physician on the mission. A team of physicians, nurses and pharmacists on the ground also evaluate medical procedures to ensure they are up-to-date and follow best practices.

3. Communication. Astronauts, physicians, nurses and mission control staff also undergo communication skills training, in addition to medical training. These classes and simulations involve how to communicate and address medical concerns, which they can use in emergency scenarios or during private medical conferences with a remote physician.

"NASA's experience with telemedicine can be applied not only to remote environments like Antarctica but also to areas currently underserved by medicine, from rural areas in the United States to developing countries," according to the Harvard Business Review writers. "Space exploration, again, may help create new solutions that will eventually enhance medical care on Earth."

More articles on telehealth:
Air Force to use VA's teleICU
Penn State is helping sexual assault victims in rural areas — here's how
Wake Forest University law school to offer course in managing telemedicine risk

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