The physiologic cipher at altitude: Telemedicine and real-time monitoring of climbers on Mount Everest

R. Satava, P. B. Angood, B. Harnett, C. Macedonia, R. Merrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Advanced wearable biosensors for vital-signs monitoring (physiologic cipher) are available to improve quality of healthcare in hospital, nursing home, and remote environments. The objective of this study was to determine reliability of vital-signs monitoring systems in extreme environments. Three climbers were monitored 24 hours while climbing through Khumbu Icefall. Data were transmitted to Everest Base Camp (elevation 17,800 feet) and retransmitted to Yale University via telemedicine. Main outcome measures (location, heart rate, skin temperature, core body temperature, and activity level) all correlated through time-stamped identification. Two of three location devices functioned 100% of the time, and one device failed after initial acquisition of location 75% of the time. Vital-signs monitors functioned from 95%-100% of the time, with the exception of one climber whose heart-rate monitor functioned 78% of the time. Due to architecture of automatic polling and data acquisition of biosensors, no climber was ever without a full set of data for more than 25 minutes. Climbers were monitored continuously in real-time from Mount Everest to Yale University for more than 45 minutes. Heart rate varied from 76 to 164 beats per minute, skin temperature varied from 5 to 10°C, and core body temperature varied only 1-3°C. No direct correlation was observed among heart rate, activity level, and body temperature, though numerous periods suggested intense and arduous activity. Field testing in the extreme environment of Mount Everest demonstrated an ability to track in real time both vital signs and position of climbers. However, these systems must be more reliable and robust. As technology transitions to commercial products, benefits of remote monitoring will become available for routine health care purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-313
Number of pages11
JournalTelemedicine Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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