Spinoff is NASA’s annual publication featuring successfully commercialized NASA technology. This commercialization has contributed to the development of products and services in the fields of health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, public safety, computer technology, and environmental resources.
When astronauts go on spacewalks, their spacesuits contain numerous sensors that monitor body temperature, heart rate, how much they sweat, and more. That data is automatically sent to NASA and distributed to the flight surgeon, biomedical engineers, and others. The ground-based crew uses that information to guide its support efforts — maybe a reminder to drink some water to avoid dehydration or take a short break to lower heart rate. The same remote health monitoring is now used on this planet in a system called Ejenta.
The customizable operating system is tailored to the individual, creating an intelligent agent based on each patient’s profile. Building on algorithms and machine learning developed by NASA, the artificial intelligence system can learn about the patient through data from wearable and wireless devices, adding to medical records.
The cloud-based program employs off-the-shelf health and fitness monitoring devices to collect important health metrics. It then saves, analyzes, reports on, and distributes information to the patient and the entire medical team. An individual health plan determines what’s monitored and how that data is reported and distributed. As with a spacewalk, the data is compared to target metrics to identify progress or issues.
The nurses and doctors, like a NASA ground crew, receive reports that include risk assessments and the steps necessary to mitigate any minor issue before it becomes a serious problem. The patient might get a reminder to take medication at a specific time or perform daily physical therapy exercises. Ejenta can also integrate chart notes, clinical records, lab results, and more to create a comprehensive medical history that will reduce false alarms and miscommunication.
Ejenta uses a Bluetooth, WiFi, or cellular connection to transmit health measurements to the custom smart-phone monitoring app. The data is automatically sent via an encrypted connection to the individual’s intelligent agent. That ongoing flow of information replaces an office visit with a phone call or video visit to discuss recent vital signs. And patients can check on their performance against improvement benchmarks at any time.
Multiple studies show the system’s potential benefits for treating serious health conditions such as heart failure and high-risk pregnancies. Doctors were able to catch problems early before they reached a crisis that required a hospital stay. For example, pregnant women were less likely to develop gestational diabetes and had fewer pre-term births and C-sections. Patients can stay healthy at home, reducing the number of times they go into the emergency room or the hospital for critical events.
Maarten Sierhuis, Ejenta’s chief technical officer, helped develop the programming that collects, evaluates, and distributes data when he worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center. That work evolved into NASA’s Orbital Communications Adapter Monitoring System, which has been in use since 2008.
Ejenta negotiated an exclusive worldwide license for the software, which NASA called Brahms, and for all related applications developed by the agency between 2000 and 2012. The San Francisco-based company is the sole distributor of the program for commercial, government, research, and academic use outside the agency.
Many people aren’t aware of Ejenta because the program is incorporated into the healthcare systems that use it. Some of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. use Ejenta to monitor high-risk conditions when a care plan requires the medical team to monitor multiple data points.
Read this Spin-Off and other NASA Spin-Offs on spinoff.NASA.gov .