Revolutionizing HD Telemedicine with Satellite Connectivity

 

By Nadeem Safdar

Imagine a rural town in mountainous Skardu in Northern Pakistan nearly 30 hours drive away from the capital Islamabad. If an elderly relative living in that remote town perceives signs of a stroke, his family would likely rush him to a nearby district hospital. Most hospitals in remote areas have limited staff. Even if the physician on duty is able to identify symptoms of a stroke the patient may need a specialist to determine the right treatment to save the patient’s life or to prevent permanent disability.

Unfortunately in most circumstances patients are unable to receive the correct diagnosis or the timely treatment.

What if instead a general physician could quickly turn to a computer with an attached high definition video camera that connects him via satellite broadband to a neuro-specialist in a healthcare facility in the nearest urban tier three hospital? This would allow both the physician and the patient to consult a neurologist by sharing the patient’s data in real time. This capability would lead to better patient outcomes and improve chances for the patient’s full recovery.

Such real-time collaboration is made possible with O3b’s satellite broadband especially in resource-limited areas. High-speed connectivity eliminates the high cost of travelling to specialised facilities in large cities. It reduces the emotional and financial burden on the family and minimizes the trauma for the patient who has to travel to receive critical care.

The O3b satellite technology considerably enhances broadband services, facilitates smooth and instant data transfers, transmits superior voice quality, and accelerated video streaming through its local hubs connected to O3b satellites revolving around the surface of earth at a distance of 8,000 Km in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The most significant difference between Geostationary Satellite systems is the availability of higher bandwidth and the remarkably lowered latency.

The good news is that Pakistan has attained capacity from the O3b constellation to serve the healthcare sector. O3b networks has successfully installed its infrastructure near Karachi in liaison with its exclusive partner for Pakistan Interactive E Solutions, JLT (an interactive Group Company). The network begins it’s services to customers across the country in the next few months. Terrain limitations prevent the deployment of reliable and cost effective fibre-optic networks leaving gaps in connectivity that can only reliably be addressed by satellite connectivity.

Pakistan’s healthcare system would benefit tremendously by promoting the idea of telemedicine-fuelled collaboration across institutions and health professionals working in the remote areas. In addition to bringing high bandwidth capacity, the network would improve speeds to nearly four-times faster than the traditional technology. With comparatively low latency at round trips clocking 150 milliseconds compared to existing latency rate of 600-800 m/s on GEO satellites. O3b’s steerable beams can be easily positioned with a footprint of 700km anywhere in Pakistan.

“O3b”, which stands for “The Other 3 Billions” referring to the segment of world’s population where broadband is not easily accessible. The idea of “The Other 3 Billions” is a significant stepping-stone in diminishing the technological disparity between the core and periphery. SES, Google, HSBC and a few other well-known firms financially back the O3b project.

The shift in satellite technology is meant to bridge the gaps in worldwide broadband availability with flexible and smooth broadband infrastructure. The technology is particularly effective for remote and disaster prone areas where fibre installations are harder to deploy and maintain. Interactive E Solutions is proud to bring this revolutionary technology to serve the healthcare sector for the betterment of the Pakistani community.

Writer is country manager of O3b Networks at Interactive Group, responsible for building from scratch a profitable venture for next generation MEO satellites. He has been associated with the Telecom Industry of Pakistan for almost 23 years now.