Satellite Connections in Healthcare (SCiEH) has a vision for using technology and satellite communications to address healthcare and education needs in rural and urban environments in the Middle East and particularly in Africa. Now is the time to enable the exploitation of these technologies and the contribution they will bring to prosperity, human capital development and peace in the region as well as providing a foundation for enable and advancing Africa – EU science and technology.
Science and technology are increasingly recognised as central to addressing development challenges. At EU level this is reflected at policy level in the DCI, EDF, ACP and H2020 initiatives. The 4th Africa- Summit on 2-3 April 2014 will be an important context in which to advance enhanced sustainable healthcare and education in Africa in a way that will serve Africa and its people for many generations to come and to ensure the policy to support science to do this is in place. The aim of the SCiEH solution is to ultimately enable local people to have access to enhanced specialist resources and create the social and technological infrastructure and capacity which enable the local community to decide its future needs and develop healthcare and education to meet them.
In many countries and continents satellite technology has enabled highly experienced medical and education professionals to support and aid remote or inaccessible communities without the need to invest in difficult to implement cable infrastructure and communication links. SCiEH vision is one of a common technology platform that allows a tailored solution to be delivered in different countries or areas as the demand or capacity requirements change. It builds on the existing healthcare culture of a group of people or a country and does not seek to change what already works. It accepts deep rooted community healthcare models and enhances them with the right technology and expert support, delivered by satellite bandwidth, from clinicians who can connect to them from anywhere in the world. By enabling community healthcare workers, medics, doctors and nurses’ access to enhanced and shared expert clinical resources the solution also means that this expertise is absorbed back into those local communities. In its simplest form, this may be a solution which enables a local midwife access to expert clinical obstetric support from a university hospital over a mobile phone, and at it is most sophisticated deliver the ability to have x-rays or other scans taken locally and diagnosed by a qualified radiologist remote to the community, in real time. For example, in a refugee camp, the technology can be flown in by helicopter and provide access to a range of clinical services before being shipped out and moved on. In more static cases, the technology can be implemented to support what the community already has access to.
The solution and the technology can be delivered in many ways. We see a common platform that supports many tailored, localised solutions, without the need for further expensive development. We are seeking your input and feedback to deliver a practical, working solution that will be truly adopted and owned locally, and will provide real benefits for all the communities concerned. We need to think locally as well as globally. We won’t get all the answers, but there are some things we would like to focus on and receive your thoughts on, and want you to influence our thinking, so that our vision begins to support your vision of healthcare and education:
The biggest problems or areas for healthcare initiatives that we are focusing on are:
In terms of education, we see the regional universities playing a huge part in this solution and we would like to get a better understanding of how this might work and how they can be involved in providing expert resource for the health care aspects of the solution as well as understanding how schools and other institutions can become involved.
There are obvious aspects of data collection that could benefit both the people the solution serves (the patients), but also other groups within the regions. We would like to discuss and take your feedback on this.
Where might be the best place for us to set up a pilot solution? We would invite all attendees of the conference to apply for the first of type if they feel our combined technology – expert community vision can support the development of healthcare and education, and deliver real benefit to their communities.
The objective of the workshop in London on 7 May will be to identify the key technologies to enable SCiEH a reality and to present these results to the African Union Commission and the Europeans Union Commission in July 2014 with a view to establishing a demonstration project.