Remote care in space and on Earth
Telemedicine, the delivery of remote medical care over a telecommunications link, has evolved tremendously with high-speed telecommunications technology, which has increased both the amount of information that can be transmitted and the speed of transmission. Physicians can now remotely diagnose and treat a wide range of health problems.
One of the experiments on NEEMO 9 will demonstrate the capability of sending digital radiographs from an extreme isolated environment to a teaching hospital for interpretation. In many rural areas of Canada, the high cost of sending patients to larger hospitals for medical procedures could be reduced with new telehealth technologies.
These technologies challenge the traditional concept whereby a hospital provides service to a specific geographic region, and offers a new vision of virtual hospitals or "hospitals without walls" that deliver regional care while also providing advanced medical support to rural facilities through new telemedicine technologies.
The future of surgery and health care
Telerobotic surgery is a new surgical approach that uses leading-edge technology to allow a surgeon to operate on a patient in another location. Three elements are required to support telerobotic surgery: high-speed telecommunications, advanced robotics technology, and surgeons skilled in performing minimally invasive surgery through tiny keyhole incisions. Canada is a world leader in all three areas.
Throughout Canada, high-speed, state-of-the-art terrestrial and satellite telecommunications are widely used. Advanced Canadian robotics technologies, similar in concept to the robotic arm used on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, have been used in developing the next generation of surgical robot, and Canadian surgeons are amongst the best in the world at pursuing innovative research on minimally invasive surgery. With its unique expertise in the three enabling technologies, Canada can take a leading role in shaping the future of remote health care and telerobotic surgery.
These new telehealth technologies will change the future of rural health care. They are also important enabling technologies for missions to send humans to the Moon or Mars. Missions like NEEMO 9 are research and technology accelerators that drive the development of smaller, portable, more capable devices for delivering advanced medical care in remote locations. Space exploration thus has a dual role: extending the capability to send humans farther into space while benefiting people on Earth.
About Hamilton's Centre for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS)
CMAS, a McMaster University Centre located at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, develops telemedicine technologies to help Canadian physicians in isolated communities gain better access to the latest medical knowledge, techniques and specialists.
There are three primary science objectives for CMAS on the NEEMO 9 mission:
Dr. Mehran Anvari, who is taking part in the NEEMO 9 medical experiments, spearheaded CMAS in 1999. On February 28, 2003, the internationally respected leader in his field successfully performed the world’s first hospital-to-hospital telerobotics-assisted surgery from his lab at St. Joseph’s in Hamilton on a patient in North Bay, Ontario, nearly 400 kilometres away.