Ronald Merrell, MD, FACS
MITAC Director


Medicine has migrated in the last century from home-based care to centralized concentrations of technology in medical centers. NASA has played a leading role in the development of much of this technology, including telemetry, telemedicine and material science. As we approach the next century of medical progress, NASA anticipates missions of vastly greater length and distance from earth. Medical technology which has been so fixed to medical centers must be liberated to accompany our astronauts wherever the mission calls them. The demand for portable technology and telecommunications to embrace distant sites will allow more and more medical care to be delivered away from hospitals and at remote facilities throughout the planet. Again the needs of our space program will fuel a revolution in health care.

The Medical Informatics and Technology Applications Consortium (MITAC) was established to explore the technologies that will be required to support these kinds of missions. MITAC is a unique NASA Research Partnership Center (RPC), established to develop, evaluate, and promote information and medical technologies for space flight and ground applications. The basic premise of a RPC is to leverage technology through partnerships with industrial affiliates and other government agencies to benefit both human space flight and the commercial sector.

MITAC is a consortium comprised of partners from government, academic institutions and industry that have a commercial interest in products and technology related to telemedicine, medical informatics and medical technology.


To explore new technologies in medical informatics and health care delivery systems that will revolutionize health care in space and on Earth.


Establish partnerships with academic, industrial, and governmental entities dedicated to:
  • the improvement of health care through the use of space science and technology
  • the maintenance of U.S. competitive lead in commercial applications of medical informatics and telemedicine
  • development and application of innovative technologies that can be embraced by human space flight
  • the integration of communications, information systems, and electromechanical interfaces between patient and health care team


The principal goals for accomplishing the vision and mission of MITAC are:
  • to establish partnerships with academia, industry and other government agencies
  • leverage technology and broaden the concepts of telemedicine and medical informatics as well as develop novel technologies in the activity of STEPS
  • evaluate technologies, processes, algorithms, and protocols in international and domestic testbeds
  • shepherd these technologies into products and processes in terrestrial and space medicine


MITAC explores technologies through partnerships with industry and academia through collaborative development and evaluation of Sensors, Transmitters, Effectors and Process Simulators (S.T.E.P.S.). These technologies and processes are evaluated in experimental testbeds, domestically and internationally. MITAC then shepherds the movement of these innovative products and processes from an option to commercial product.

MITAC serves as a pivotal center for technology development in the area of medicine for NASA's human space flight program as well as benefit academia and industry. The U.S. economy and health care industry can benefit from the MITAC's vision, mission, and goals.


The development of collaborative partnerships provides opportunity for the MITAC to utilize ground-based testbeds to evaluate technology. Testbeds vary from remote and hostile environments such as Mt. Everest, to the jungles of Ecuador. These proving grounds serve as unique laboratories for understanding how technology can transcend cultural differences in the practice of medicine and education.


Currency of knowledge is vitally important to maintaining skills. The integration of communications into the education process provides unique opportunities for faculty and students from around the world to participate in educational courses in a variety of disciplines. Lectures and grand rounds are formatted using exciting new technologies on the Internet. These technologies include video streaming, Web-based training and CD ROMs.

Educational material can be viewed throughout the world and enhances our ability to transition our knowledge to students of all ages. These same technologies can be easily adapted for enhancing training of astronauts during flight on long duration missions.


Clinical telemedicine is being conducted under the stewardship of the MITAC. Consortium members are supporting a number of activities in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Egypt and Ecuador. Telemedicine in these countries range from low bandwidth communications, which support a mobile surgical vehicle to Web-based multimedia patient consultations. VCU serves as the lead US clinical site for the G-8 Subproject 4 telemedicine activity. A major tenet of the MITAC is to support NASA's international telemedicine program.


As information systems and sensor technology continue to evolve, integration into medical devices for diagnosis and treatment will become commonplace. MITAC is working with its partners to further develop sensors and transmitters that can be used to obtain medical information and distribute it to aide in diagnosis and treatment. activities are also being supported in the development of effectors & process simulators, which can be integrated into both diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease.
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Copyright 2000 MedITAC
June 27, 2004