Satellites help to bring telehealth services to remote areas
Impoverished or remote areas of the world with a lack of broadband availability may also have limited access to health care services, but in today’s tech-driven world with beaming satellite technology that can deliver connectivity to the most remote areas, health care availability is no longer defined by geographic boundaries.
Providers are increasingly able to connect with patients through telehealth medicine — the use of electronic and telecommunications strategies to access and manage health care remotely.
New health care access points in underserved areas come in the form of self-serve stationary kiosks, which are designed to let patients enter, press a button and speak with a nurse or doctor via an internet connection. All associated peripherals are present to check blood pressure, oxygen levels and heart rate, which are monitored.
“The beauty of satellite internet is these can be placed anywhere,” Daniel Boyce, chief product officer at telehealth solutions provider Let’s Talk Interactive, told Connectivity Business. “A typical satellite dish is over two feet wide. The only reason the dish is that large is to [enable] the proper bandwidth to allow for video conferencing.”
Nearly 14.5 million people in the U.S. — including 17% in rural areas and 21% on tribal lands — lack access to wired advanced telecommunications capability, defined as 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
While rural population data for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole is not available, the region’s population is expected to grow from 652 million in 2018 to 760 million in 2060.
“We hear all the time about people who need to travel from a jungle to a riverboat to a bus to walking,” Art Cooksey, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Let’s Talk Interactive, told CBN. “It’s a two-day journey just to get access to health care.”
Making telehealth available to remote rural populations involves overcoming hurdles, chief among them being expense.
“Satellite is not cheap,” Boyce said. “The equipment is not cheap, and the service is not cheap. But when we’re talking about human life, the expense is justified.”
Weather-related challenges can also be an issue.
“If it’s really foggy, that could be a problem,” Cooksey said. “The sun, weather and storms could shut [satellites] down.”
Despite obstacles, there will be a connected planet in five years, Boyce said.
“With technology, there is no place on earth where access to health care should not be a basic human right,” he said.
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