FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AUGUST 4, 2005
Contact: Bill Seiler email@example.com 410-328-8919
University of Maryland School of Medicine
William Jeffs firstname.lastname@example.org 218-483-5111
NASA Johnson Space Center
Christopher Nelson Christopher.Nelson@hsc.utah.edu 801-581-7387
University of Utah Health Sciences Center
NASA Grant Will Fund UM and University of Utah Multimedia Research Initiative
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have received a $1.6 million, four-year grant to develop and test a multimedia guide to respond rapidly to medical emergencies in space. The goal is to create a tool that astronauts could use whether in orbit, at the International Space Station, or on the moon or Mars. The grant comes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/National Space Biomedical Research Institute.
“NASA’s current emergency medical procedures checklist is a hardcopy manual with more than 1,000 pages comprised of text and static one-color graphics,” says the project’s principal investigator, F. Jacob Seagull, Ph.D., director of Performance Technology Research in the Program in Trauma at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“We believe a multimedia format would greatly improve the ability of the crew to respond quickly to a medical emergency, especially since communication with medical experts on Earth is sometimes interrupted or unavailable,” says Dr. Seagull, who is also an assistant professor of anesthesiology.
The project is a combined effort of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Program in Trauma, and human factors researchers at the NASA-Johnson Space Center’s Usability Testing and Analysis Facility in Houston and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The University of Maryland researchers have conducted extensive research on the use of video and other multimedia tools to analyze medical performance and enhance patient safety. They work closely with physicians at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, a world-renowned part of the University of Maryland Medical Center, where hundreds of medical personnel have been trained.
“Emergency medicine procedures demand attention to perceptual cues to ascertain what is happening to the patient, and may require complex maneuvers to correct a problem, such as impaired breathing. Astronauts are often not physicians, so it is important to provide guidance that is easily and quickly understood,” says Dr. Seagull.
NASA’s principal investigator for the project, Mihriban Whitmore, Ph.D., is manager of the Usability Testing and Analysis Facility at the Johnson Space Center. Dr. Whitmore says, “We are looking at how we can improve the capabilities for handling medical emergencies thousands of miles away from Earth.”
Medical procedures may have to be rewritten for an environment with no or low gravity. Dr. Whitmore says this is particularly important with the president’s new goals for human exploration of the moon and Mars. Lunar gravity is one-third that of Earth’s while Martian gravity is one-sixth. The researchers will use reduced-gravity aircraft and other means to create low gravity and test the instruction interfaces. “The ultimate wording of how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, for example, may be the same, but the way you set up the environment or lay out equipment may be different in low or no gravity,” Dr. Whitmore says.
The study has five goals: (1) to analyze the specific medical procedures for long-duration space missions and break them down into task models; (2) develop high- and low-resolution multimedia presentations based on the analysis and modeling; (3) test the multimedia programs through simulated medical emergencies; (4) pilot the integration of the multimedia into advanced technologies, such as handheld and hands-free computerized systems; and (5) generate guidelines for the application of the different types of multimedia to NASA’s existing manuals, guides and checklists that support crew performance and safety.
The University of Utah’s Departments of Anesthesiology, Psychology and Architecture have developed simple, animated line drawings that show step-by-step how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). “We evaluated the impact of the animation, and found that people who learned how to do CPR solely from the animated drawings did as well as those who had full classroom instruction in CPR,” says Dwayne R. Westenskow, Ph.D., a professor of anesthesia, bioengineering and medical bioinformatics at the University of Utah and a co-principal investigator on the project.
Dr. Westenskow says NASA crew members have a total of 40 hours of medical training. “Their time is prioritized to learn mission tasks. They do not have much time for medical training.” Even so, he adds, “Someone with that minimal amount of training may
have to resuscitate a crew member. The current medical emergency manual is huge. We want to make it much easier to obtain and use the information.”
NASA has a number of computer-based training programs already in use, but Dr. Whitmore says this study will lead to more standardization of materials. “As we move into habitat and exploration vehicles for the moon and Mars, we’ll need a commonality in the multimedia materials,” she says. “We hope this study will result in requirements or standards for multimedia, so the information is pre-planned, with more structure and detail.”
Dr. Whitmore says the study could not come at a better time. “The timing of the project is so perfect,” she says. “Originally, we were focused on improving the response to medical emergencies at the International Space Station. But now we’re also looking at longer-term, greater-distance space journeys. I think it’s very exciting.”
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