Low-Earth Orbit Satellites in Healthcare

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Connectivity is essential for managing healthcare – whether it’s for staff computers, IoT devices, machines, or mobile phones. However, particularly in remote and rural areas, access to fast, reliable connectivity has always been problematic. With the rapid digitalisation of healthcare, many providers are now turning to alternative technologies to continue to improve service levels.

Traditional Geostationary (GEO) satellites, although used for decades, cannot offer consistent connectivity worldwide. Locations above or below 50 degrees from the equator are subject to a lack of connectivity coverage, resulting in millions of unconnected people across the globe. Due to their distance from Earth, speed and latency are also severely lacking, making GEO unsuitable for modern healthcare operations.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of coverage of GEO satellites and the lack of infrastructure to support terrestrial networks, around 2 billion people have little access or in extreme cases, no access to basic healthcare. Concerns surrounding a predicted influx of the population in the affected areas are growing, as there are fears that this will inevitably lead to greater strains on the already stretched healthcare services.

LEO Satellites for Healthcare

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, the newest innovation within the satellite communication industry, aim to provide consistent global coverage, ensuring no industry or community is left behind.  Due to the positioning (just 1200km from Earth), LEO satellites provide low latency (<70ms), high speed (100mbps) internet to users around the world.  This too is the reason that LEO satellites are less susceptible to damage preventing drops in coverage.

LEO satellites can be deployed quickly to support rural areas which struggle to access quality healthcare. Notwithstanding, satellites cannot deliver physical hospitals or other healthcare facilities, but the use of LEO satellites can enable technology services – a step in the right direction.

Even in urban areas with large healthcare facilities, there is a struggle to meet connectivity demand. This includes for the use of new healthcare innovations (machines and IoT devices designed to improve care) as well as the growing number of patients and staff communications that come from these. Current terrestrial solutions struggle with capacity as they attempt to meet the security, traffic, bandwidth, and reliability requirements needed to support thousands of devices and enable high-quality imaging, remote patient monitoring, support home workers, improve secure access to patient records, and much more. LEO satellites working alone or to supplement current terrestrial connectivity solutions would help ensure demands can be met across all healthcare borders. You can find more information on LEO satellites here.

A Healthcare Use Case – NHS Bluelight/ Mobile Services

Many employees working for the NHS do not work within a specific healthcare facility. Ambulance personnel, for example, work in a field-based capacity traveling to and from remote locations. Many of the visits made by paramedics are emergencies and information on patients is often not accessible due to a lack of signal and blackspots.

By using a reliable and truly mobile connectivity solution like LEO satellites, the NHS can enable access to patient data and allow rapid communication between units, providing paramedics with access to the relevant information they need to make real-time decisions. This also applied to the wider emergency services network (Police, Fire Services), as well as search and rescue. You can find out more about how OneWeb integrates with emergency services here.

OneWeb Healthcare Report

For further information, read the full healthcare report here.

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