Meeting the needs of global healthcare with satellite technology
Health professionals need telemedicine via satellite for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and education. This is the conclusion of the ESA initiative which plans to propose a Telemedicine via satellite programme at the next ESA ministerial conference.
A comprehensive review over the last two years with symposiums and meetings has helped identify the real needs of the medical community before developing the associated and adequate tools. In this process a Telemedicine working group was formed. They identified five purely medical areas where satellite technology could play a significant role:
- management of emergencies, disasters and trauma
- mobility of patients
- health early warning systems
- healthcare at home
- eHealth education
and two additional approaches:
- interoperability/interconnectivity for medical data handling and exchange
- services for citizens and the use of healthcare systems.
The key results of the telemedicine working group clearly indicates the need for satellite technology. Some statistics from the last 10 years illustrate this: there are on average 1200 deaths per year on aircraft, 5 medical emergency landings per week (at a cost of €700 000), diagnostics for pregnancies in remote areas cost €980 while medical emergency evacuation costs €2850 per hour (using a plane or helicopter). Using satellite telecommunication technology for education at home for chronic diseases could save 20% of present costs.
It appears evident from this that satellite technology has real potential and can be a key element for improving the way medicine is applied today. The programme also envisages a transition phase from the beginning of 2005 until the next ESA Ministerial Conference in which a number of pilot projects are expected to be carried forward.
In its conclusion, to bring forward eHealth and Telemedicine via satellite, the working group recommended that in the first instance dedicated applications and services of high demand should take priority in being brought towards an operational phase. After this, the ultimate goal is to create and implement a comprehensive telematics platform devoted to Global Health over Satellite.