May 01 2023

Delivering Equitable Healthcare To Remote Regions With Satellite Broadband

Satellite broadband allows access to critical healthcare services, no matter where they live.

Rural and mobile healthcare facilities face the most significant connectivity challenges due to the lack of availability of sufficiently fast and reliable terrestrial and mobile broadband options. This matter has proven problematic throughout the pandemic, where underserved regions have been left behind.

In Indonesia, for example, Jakarta had a far higher vaccination rate than more remote and sparsely populated provinces like Papua and Maluku. These relatively low rates are partly due to the lack of infrastructure in many remote regions. Many island communities in particular lack fixed-line broadband. In other regions, especially during the monsoon season, mobile coverage can also be spotty or even non-existent.

There has also been enormous demand for recording case numbers and vaccination rates. Performing such operations without reliable internet access inevitably results in a delay, decreased visibility into localized public health, and a greater risk of human error. Similar issues persist even under normal circumstances, in which a lack of connectivity directly translates into slow response times and low availability of vital patient information.

Given the constantly increasing importance of broadband connectivity in the healthcare sector, satellite internet has become a critical enabler of universal healthcare. With 99.9% availability and coverage over anywhere on the planet that has a line of sight to the sky, geostationary satellites can help bridge the gap and enable the delivery of more equitable healthcare.

How satellite broadband empowers equitable healthcare

The delivery of quality healthcare services depends on having a consistently reliable uplink to the internet from any device in any location at all times. That being said, rural and other remote areas often lack fixed-line or mobile connectivity.

Even where these options are available, they should not be relied on entirely, especially when it comes to the provision of emergency care. For example, a power outage alone will immediately render any fixed-line internet connection useless.

In these remote locations, satellite solutions like Kacific Gigstarter, GigWiFi and Community WiFi and help bridge the gap. Backup services should also be available to support the medical systems in time of cable or fiber breakdowns.

With satellite connectivity, doctors and nurses can easily do video calls to be updated on key medical knowledge and expertise and allow for real-time and timely medical inventory management.

Kacific’s broadband service is compatible with very small aperture terminals (VSATs) which are especially well-suited to healthcare thanks to their small size and excellent mobility. They can even be solar-powered, which means they can provide connectivity practically anywhere. Because they are transportable, they are suitable for use in vehicles like ambulances and ships. Most importantly, VSAT systems offer ample bandwidth for transmitting vital logistical information and patient medical records.

Moreover, VSATs can complement existing high-throughput architecture to facilitate point-to-point connections in IoT applications. For example, medical IoT devices like patient monitoring systems, typically only transmit narrowband data, and higher latency rates in the order of 600 to 1,000ms are largely inconsequential in most healthcare use cases. Solutions like Kacific Internet of Things also provide easy and reliable connectivity in areas without 3G/4G access.

Making connectivity affordable to empower critical medical operations and communications 

Satellite internet connectivity is also much more affordable than many people assume. Satellite connectivity prices have also been brought down by Kacific due to our innovative use of Ka-band satellite technology. As Kacific1 can reuse the spectrum multiple times, this results in cost savings for the medical facilities.

A clinic can be easily connected with less than USD 195 a month with speeds up to 40Mbps. With affordable connectivity, online operations are now more viable, improving the efficiencies and timeliness of their online operations.

As medical centers usually double up as community hubs in many of the villages, having strong and reliable satellite connectivity is vital in times of natural disasters. In times of peace, the employees and community could also tap on the VSAT equipment installed and affordable internet prices to connect with their loved ones and to the rest of the world, opening global opportunities.

Notable Case Studies

In Vanuatu, with the Ministry of Health, the number of maternal deaths in the isolated villages have been reduced. Abwatuntora Mauna Health Centre had no mobile networks or connectivity until a Kacific Community WiFi site was installed there in January 2021.

Empowered by reliable and high-speed connectivity, Nurse Nicholas Bage delivered a complicated childbirth via video conferencing with a more experienced midwife at another clinic. If this occurred just a few months ago before the affordable Community WiFi was introduced there, the mother and new-born would not have survived.

In Papua New Guinea, health workers at the Arufi Aid Post benefit from the satellite connectivity by using the internet to make calls when seeking emergency medical advice. They can also place regular orders for supplies and participate in online training initiatives.

The connectivity brought to Papua New Guinea enabled the Community Health Workers to seek medical advice from available on-call doctors. Life-saving medical evacuations can also be easily coordinated with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flights via mobile phones.

Additionally, Kacific’s internet has enabled Aerial Health Patrol teams (AHP) to be able to support health facilities, provide medical advice and medical supplies at the time of need. Health workers and the community members can now share vital weather and airstrip information to MAF so that the AHP teams can travel safely amid the pandemic and provide primary healthcare.