Fighting COVID-19 Through Satellite-based Telemedicine Networks

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By Nicole Robinson

One of the key advantages of satellite is its incredible reach and ability to deliver connectivity everywhere — even in the most remote and geographically-isolated locations. SES and its partners have leveraged SES’s global satellite fleet to provide connectivity services to hospitals across the globe in Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Mexico and Italy.

Medical professionals have been in the limelight for the last several months as they put their lives at risk to help care for the sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. The least that companies and governments can do is to provide them with the right tools. At SES we were in a position to help through leveraging our existing partnerships and resources in support of remote hospitals.

Luxembourg Government’s SATMED project in Bangladesh and Sierra Leone

For years, the Luxembourg Government’s SATMED platform has helped various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), making a difference for healthcare professionals by giving them access to a dedicated e-Health software via SES’s satellite capacity. This existing solution has become increasingly important and necessary during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Friendship NGO continues to serve two floating hospitals off the remote islands of northern Bangladesh and a hospital on-land in the south of the country. Patient data is sent from the Friendship Central server to the National Healthcare Database via satellite. The same connectivity also helps reinforce the triage system, which quickly identifies and refers patients to the dedicated governmental COVID-19 centres. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the hospitals have served more than 10,000 patients. SATMED is a great enabler for Friendship healthcare system. It is to mention that Friendship has successfully delivered more than 18.5 million healthcare services since its inception in 2002.

SATMED has also been utilised by the Serabu Hospital in Sierra Leone, that is supported by the German Doctors NGO. The hospital is located in a remote region approximately eight hours away from the nation’s capital of Freetown, and two hours away from the nearest administrative centre. The Serabu Hospital is the only location in the area that has electricity, and is responsible for providing care to thousands of patients. SATMED is the only connection that Serabu Hospital has to the outside world.

Drawing from its experience fighting Ebola in 2014, the hospital expanded the existing triage system and set up information exchange with the dedicated government COVID-19 centres. SATMED allows real-time situational assessment and data exchange with other hospitals both in the country and abroad. It also supports provision of various critical services to the population, enables X-ray data to be processed with the help of doctors located in Germany, and empowers the management of critical supplies and logistics.

Supporting the Government of Mexico’s telemedicine network

In the face of the spreading coronavirus pandemic and with time of the essence, the Government of Mexico sought SES’s help to support deployment of its telemedicine network. Local teams, working hand-in-hand with SES, managed to launch the service in a few weeks, enabling the delivery of communications services to 35 public hospitals across Mexico via satellite. SES and local operator TELECOMM are extremely proud that they were able to rollout service so quickly and provide support for telemedicine connectivity and the delivery of vital healthcare services.

Scaling COVID-19 testing in Italy

In Europe, the Piedmont regional government in Italy and its healthcare professionals needed the European Space Agency’s satellite-enabled mobile B-LiFE laboratory to scale COVID-19 screening operations. The mobile laboratory, which is currently deployed to one of the worst-hit by COVID-19 regions, allows testing of frontline healthcare staff, civil protection volunteers and police forces. To enable the mission, SES and GovSat, supported by the Luxembourg Department of Defence, have put in place an end-to-end satellite connectivity solution for real-time data transmission, exchange of epidemiology cartographies and communication with remote experts.

Connectivity is an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 thanks to its ability to deliver telemedicine services and e-Health applications. Satellite is playing a vital role in supporting medical professionals in their daily duties, enabling telehealth via teleconferencing, managing information and empowering the exchange of patient and clinical data. At SES, we are humbled and proud to support this effort and will continue to go the extra mile to make sure we can make a difference.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

Nicole Robinson is the Senior Vice President of Global Government for SES, the largest commercial satellite operator in the world. In her role at SES, she is responsible for the company’s global business portfolio of government customers in the areas of defense, security, humanitarian, federal, civilian and institutional organizations.

In addition to these roles, Ms. Robinson serves as the global President of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), Chairman of the Board of Redu Space Services and Director of the LuxGovSat Board of Directors.

In the 12 years since Ms. Robinson joined SES, she has served in a variety of Executive roles leading teams in the area of government product development, business development, government affairs and marketing. Prior to joining SES, she served as the leader of the Strategic Communications function for the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ) with General Dynamics as well as the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Ms. Robinson is known in the satellite industry for serving in a variety of leadership positions including two terms as Chair of the Hosted Payload Alliance as well as Vice Chair, Board level positions for the Washington Space Business Roundtable, SSPI and others. She was the recipient of the 2012 Future Leaders Award by the Society of Satellite Professionals International and is a member of “The FEW,” an invitation-only assembly of senior executive women.

Ms. Robinson is certified in Federal Financial Management by the Federal Training Center, completed her bachelor’s degree in Communications at Radford University, earned an MBA from Liberty University, and is a graduate of the Senior Executives in National and International Security Program at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government.

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