Towards a real space telemedicine?

Healthcare management is a crucial hot topic continuously needing high technological standards to provide the best performance. Such an improvement can be ensured by space assets, being an effective means to define novel approaches for a widespread monitoring and intervention for promptly treating patients and supporting the medical personnel. For this aim, telemedicine services can effectively contribute to define a novel scenario as it seems to be one of the dominant theme at the crossings of inhabited space flights and global health. This result was collected by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs’ Expert Group on Space and Global Health, reviewing literature data and stakeholders’ involvement in the field, including association, consortia (e.g., SGAC), national space institutes (e.g., CNES, NASA, JAXA, Roscosmos), and UN entities.

Satellite communication systems can thus pave the way to the development of an integrated operative model as an astronaut needing medical assistance onboard a space station or an individual living far from medical expertise in a desolated rural area may represent similar issues to be addressed. Challenges for a successful implementation are not different in space and on earth, requiring to deal with low bandwidth connection, stable electrical power, data storage, ad hoc software supported by AI, and trained users. In this framework, telesurgery is foreseen to be a necessary medical support in extraplanetary human outposts. Obviously, technical limitations, such as latency response, need to be specifically assessed, but potential synergies in the research field for space and terrestrial applications can develop tailored solutions.

The topic will be discussed during the New Space Economy Expoforum 2020 where researchers, entrepreneurs and stakeholders will present the state-of-the-art and introduce the future routes for a specific technological implementation.