Haiti: A new system designed by the Institute for Space Medicine (MEDES) in France and Local Insight Global Impact (LIGI) in Portugal, and supported by ESA through its integrated Applications programme, is providing access to health care using satellite telephones and satellite navigation.
It is designed for regions where trained medical professionals are sparse and where communications are limited due to the damage caused by a natural disaster.
The system has been used with success in Haiti, where the massive earthquake of 2010 has left its mark.
Health units in many Haitian regions are few and far between.
The new system makes up for the lack of local health care by ensuring anyone from anywhere can be trained to report the symptoms of a patient accurately.
It uses a special interface designed for satellite and smartphones that walks a user through a series of steps to send data as SMS messages via satellite or a ground-based system, if available. This information is then accessed by the local and national health systems via an Internet portal.
Feedback on what to do for the patient can be given within a few minutes. For example, if serious medical attention is needed after the diagnosis, this is dispatched immediately.
Because these data are sent in real time, it can also help the early detection of potential epidemics by revealing trends in symptoms.
Satnav signals are used to ‘geo-tag’ symptom records, simplifying where the data are being collected.
This helps to map potential epidemics based on the symptoms reported. Geo-tagging can also help to put patients in contact with the nearest healthcare provider.