Spacelabs monitoring equipment stands tall in disaster telemedicine tests organised by NASA

Redmond 11 September 2000Wyle Laboratories, Life Sciences Systems and Services Division personnel, under contract to NASA, Johnson Space Center, have reported earlier this month that their field tests of Spacelabs Medical Inc. monitoring equipment were a success. The tests were part of Operation Strong Angel, a joint NASA-US Navy military exercise involving seven nations and several public health and disaster response teams.


The long-term goals of the Strong Angel operation in part are to build a global infrastructure that is Next Generation Internet (NGI) compliant and capable of supporting clinical needs as part of disaster response in a global environment, and to define requirements for space mission critical-care monitoring capability.

The series of gruelling tests took place in a 300-person mock refugee camp established to simulate mass dislocation because of conflict or natural disaster. Simulation participants included flight surgeons, biomedical engineers and medical trainers. The camp was located in a barren site about 30 miles inland on the island of Hawaii at high elevation. The area is dry and windy, with extreme temperature swings, from near freezing at night to over 100 degrees in the tents during the day.

The test personnel wore goggles and face masks to protect themselves from the constantly blowing dust, while gale force winds have toppled tents and equipment one night. "In this harsh environment, our monitor never blinked. It worked flawlessly", commented Roy Hays, vice president of product development at Spacelabs.

A Spacelabs' Ultraview 1050 monitor was linked simultaneously by satellite communications to five remote observation sites including the Johnson Space Center; Star City, Russia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; East Carolina University School of Medicine; and Toronto, Canada. The Spacelabs system was unique in being able to meet all the operation's requirements including simultaneous remote consultation with both primary and secondary sites.

"We are extremely delighted with our products' performance in this global simulation", stated Roy Hays. "We are also pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in this exercise. Our company got its start making telemetry systems for monitoring vital signs of the early astronauts in the late 1950s, and now we are once again involved with NASA."

The exercise was designed to test the monitoring system's compatibility with satellite communications, accuracy and compatibility of the monitor's parameters vis-à-vis NASA's standards and the efficacy of running Spacelabs' software on NASA-hardened notebooks, as well as the monitor's overall field capabilities. During the exercise simulated telemetry was used to recreate clinical scenarios relevant to projected clinical pathology.

The parameters required of the medical monitor included 5-lead ECG at a minimum, SpO2 pulse oximetry, invasive and non-invasive blood pressure, body temperature and ETCO2. The evaluation criteria included usability and human factors, training requirements, the user interface, time and ease of set-up, maintenance requirements and documentation usability, as well as equipment features such as the screen viewing angle, power requirements, battery runtime, data storage, trending, alarms, cost and, of course, overall performance.

Spacelabs is a leading provider of integrated medical information systems and instrumentation with a strategic focus on wireless, telemedicine and Internet solutions for health care. Spacelabs monitoring equipment has also been selected in a telemedicine research project, organised by Mercy Home Health Services. More details are available in this month's VMW article Tele-home care for congestive heart failure patients evaluated under US Army grant.

Leslie Versweyveld

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