Q&A: Why astronauts will need their own health data management platform

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine, alongside its partners, is seeking proposals for the development of a health and data platform for individuals traveling to space.

James Hury, TRISH’s deputy director and chief innovation officer, joined MobiHealthNews to discuss the solicitation, which closes on May 10, and why data management technology is needed as private space exploration increases. 

MobiHealthNews: Can you tell me about the solicitation?

James Hury: This solicitation is really a unique funding opportunity. It’s something we’re really excited about. It’s the opportunity for us to do a lot of health management and research management in a very difficult environment, in this case in space. But it does actually apply to low-resource healthcare here on Earth and possibly even to home-based healthcare, because what we’re doing is basically managing all plugins that we would do on all our research for SpaceX, Axiom Space, Space Adventures, and doing that in an environment that’s harsher than a normal environment on Earth. 

So there’s no cloud backup. You have to have a minimum footprint, minimal power draw. But we still want the maximum possible coverage of personalized medicine over a really small number of people, basically four people at any given time. 

And that’s no different than basically a household of four, where in the future you may see your home monitoring you on just passive activity and letting you know when you have a fever, or when you have something that may be a medical emergency, or you may be incapacitated, but you need help from your local health system.

This just gives us a better footprint to be able to keep an eye on those types of things in real time from incredible distances. But the key to this is that it follows the patient instead of the vehicle. So our patient will launch on a SpaceX vehicle.

It will then possibly transfer to the International Space Station, possibly transfer to an Artemis vehicle for the Deep Space Gateway, possibly even go down to a lunar surface and then have to come back from that distance as well. And in each area, we have the ability with this system, if we partner with a fantastic vendor, which we hope [to do], for that information management system to actually take the journey across different vehicles and harmonize data capture and information management, and even countermeasure deployment, or inventory management, or medical recommendations. 

Even if there’s some kind of data lag or data issue on what may be no more than a six or eight second lag to the moon. But if this system works really well, it could also work on a trip to Mars. So we’re pushing a boundary, and we’re doing so with a completely unique way for a company to get visibility as well.

MHN: So, the platform would be similar to a remote patient monitoring platform. It won’t be built into the ship.

Hury: No, that’s actually the need. In a lot of these systems, you’ll see that they’re built into a system, like a Boeing Future Flight or something like that. What we’re doing is saying we have no idea what the future vehicle is going to be. We are completely vehicle agnostic.

What you need is a hub where somebody can actually monitor themselves with not just one thing. So not one proprietary EEG or Fitbit, or something [like] that, but a way to actually aggregate several things at the same time so that you’re confirming that one signal is shown as affecting another signal, and that verifies that both are real, as opposed to one outlier telling you something that’s wrong,  

This is an integrated system, but it’s going to be on consumer electronics, meaning a normal tablet or normal phone backed up in some kind of way with the ability to manage data in both the short term and long term. And we have a data repository where everything will transfer down to that data repository.  

MHN: How is having this platform going to affect and benefit spaceflight years from now? 

Hury: We’re going to just, as we typically do, use space as a testing ground to advance the conversation. So there are more constraints. It’s not just dealing with things like microgravity, which don’t necessarily overlap with software, but do add the extra layer of minimal power draw. 

We’re open to anything, including voice as a biomarker or face recognition, if there’s ways that we can help monitor things like mental health in flight. Those are all the things that we’re going to experiment with, but we need a system to help manage and implement all of that a central ring to rule them all. And from there, we’re going to be continuing to look for all the types of things that advance the plugins everywhere along the way.



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