GE Medical monitoring system captures astronauts' heartbeat during space walks

Houston 01 March 2002For the first time in the history of the United States Space Programme, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using commercially available heart monitoring and information systems for the important task of monitoring the health of the seven astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia while they work outside their spacecraft. The astronauts are spending ten days in space on a $172 million mission to upgrade and repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Columbia lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 1, 2002.


Heart monitoring systems developed by GE Medical Systems Information Technologies, a unit of General Electric Company, are used during this fourth Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission. During their space walks to work on the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts' cardiac information will be transmitted in real time to Mission Control at the NASA Johnson Space Center where it will be monitored using the GE CIC Pro Clinical Information Center and the Apex Pro Telemetry System. After each space walk, the cardiac data is further analysed and archived using the MARS Unity Workstation.

The GE systems being used by NASA are now being applied by health care professionals in the United States and worldwide. "This technology illustrates the value and capability of telemedicine, the ability to effectively read, monitor, and analyse a patient's heart condition from miles away", stated Joseph Hogan, president and CEO of GE Medical Systems. "The concept of telemedicine works for the sophisticated care and monitoring of astronauts as well as for heart patients in our local communities", continued Mr. Hogan.

Prior to this mission, NASA developed and used its own proprietary systems. Instead of recreating advanced heart monitoring systems, NASA decided to reach out to the private sector and select systems best suited for their needs. By doing so, NASA is effectively taking advantage of the state-of-the-art in health care while at the same time exploring applications of this technology in ways that may benefit everyday medical practices here on Earth. The result is a more cost effective solution for NASA and an opportunity for GE to benefit from NASA's expertise.

With technical support from GE Medical Systems, Wyle Laboratories, Life Sciences Systems and Services, a prime support contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center, performed integration of the GE medical systems with NASA's communication and mission control infrastructure, and is operating the systems during this mission. Looking to the future, the goal is to integrate all cardiac data from astronauts to continue to better understand the impact of space flight on the heart and other physiological functions.

"For the past 35 years, we have helped health care providers deliver first-of-its-kind monitoring technology which elevates the quality of patient care worldwide", stated Greg Lucier, president and CEO of GE Medical Systems Information Technologies. "The Hubble mission marks yet another first for our technology, and we are hopeful of its positive impact on the space programme and advancement for patient care."

GE Medical Systems Information Technologies provides hospitals and health care systems with advanced software and technologies to improve their clinical performance. The expertise spans the areas of cardiology, patient monitoring, image management, clinical communications, and clinical information systems to enable a real time, integrated electronic medical records. GE Medical Systems Information Technologies is a business of GE Medical Systems, an $8 billion specialist in medical imaging and technology.

According to Mr. Lucier, GE has helped health care providers create more than 2 billion cardiac patient records to date. Recently GE Medical Systems Information Technologies has also started to provide the wireless monitoring systems and equipment for the first all-digital heart hospital in the United States, slated to open at the end of 2002. More news on this is available in the VMW March 2002 article First all-digital Indiana Heart Hospital takes off in December 2002.

Leslie Versweyveld

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