Satellites are playing an increasing role in the support of health and welfare on Earth. In the first of a series of bulletins looking at the range of satellite applications, this brief note summarises how satellite technology can assist in the provision of efficient health care and touches on some relevant legal issues.
There has been a limited awareness of space capabilities by the medical/health profession and an equally limited understanding of users' needs by the satellite industry. Satellite communications provide the ability for remote medical diagnosis and remote medical care in the home, which is particularly important for the growing ageing society, which may require assisted living. The World Health Organisation recently published the statistic that there are 600 million people globally who are over 60 years of age, and that 860 million people worldwide are living with a chronic condition.
Several satellite communications applications and services are already providing isolated populations with access to healthcare and medical practitioners with second opinions or additional support (e.g. tele-diagnosis in the absence of local expertise and health monitoring to enhance homecare, mobility and the autonomy of the ageing population). This is also coupled with a trend towards greater patient involvement and more general health awareness.
In general, remote diagnosis through the means of satellite telecommunications with the assistance of expert healthcare professionals will allow for quicker, more accurate and efficient decision-making regarding the treatment or transport of a patient. This may avoid the unnecessary use of expensive rescue facilities.
Miniaturised sensing equipment can be used to send data to a medical centre by means of a satellite system during emergencies and in relation to disaster response and rescue activities. It also enables real time tele-diagnosis through images by specialised medical doctors. Satellite communications can also assist in the gathering of data to predict and track disease progression and associated risks of outbreaks. A satellite system will also provide a resilient and efficient way to distribute warnings and information over large areas to ensure that adequate measures are put in place to safeguard health and to deal with the consequences of catastrophic events.
Published by: Mondag on March 1,2011
Full article: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=124452