How Satellite Helps Power Quality Healthcare in Niger

How Satellite Helps Power Quality Healthcare in Niger

At the end of April SES deployed SATMED, a satellite-based e-health platform, at the CURE Hospital for Children in Niger.

Thanks to the platform, CURE Niger will be able to establish communications with national and international doctors to receive medical counselling. Here Josh Korn, Executive Director at CURE Hôpital des Enfants au Niger, tells us more about this project.

In a nutshell, can you please explain CURE’s role in Niger?

CURE International offers specialized paediatric surgical care throughout the developing world. In Niger, there are approximately two doctors to every 100,000 people, so access to quality healthcare is very limited. Our mission is to provide life-changing surgeries to children with disabilities. We treat children with different types of orthopaedic conditions, clubfoot, cleft lip and cleft palate as well as many burn contracture releases and skin grafts.

What are the key challenges in Niger when it comes to healthcare?

One of the biggest challenges is the lack of infrastructure. Without reliable electricity, internet connection or water, access to healthcare throughout the country remains very limited. Our goal is to pioneer creative, technological solutions to overcome these barriers.
Another challenge is the lack of awareness around the different conditions we treat. Many children grow up with a disability that can in fact be treated, but unfortunately their families simply don’t know about the options.

Why was CURE International interested in SATMED? What are the key assets of such a platform?

The SATMED programme aligns perfectly with CURE’s objectives of leveraging technology to find solutions to overcome problems faced by healthcare providers in the developing world. Thanks to satellite technology, we are overcoming obstacles due to lack of connectivity, which is crucial. The more we can do to create connections and facilitate communication, the better we can serve our patients. Not very long ago, as a healthcare provider in Niger, or throughout the developing world, our ability to help patients was limited by the resources, capacities and capabilities that were immediately on hand. Now, thanks to programmes like SATMED, this is no longer the case, and the sky is the limit.

SATMED was deployed a few weeks ago. Are doctors and nurses already using the system?  Have you already noticed some changes?

We are still getting used to the SATMED platform, but it is certainly making a difference in our work already. We just installed a new digital X-ray system, and now through SATMED, the images can be shared across the CURE network, and also throughout the SATMED network.  

We have tried some informal e-learning sessions with our medical staff, through online tutorials on different surgical procedures. And of course, the SATMED programme has given our hospital’s infrastructure a great boost, as we have better access to our cloud-based financial management and inventory management systems. In the coming months, we plan to implement more cloud-based systems for management through HospitalRun - our own cloud-based, open source e-health platform, which will function through SATMED.

Deploying SATMED is a step forward to better healthcare. How do you see the future of the hospital?

The CURE hospital is located in the capital, Niamey, where only one million people live - out of nearly 20 million of Niger’s population. Clearly the future of CURE in Niger lies outside the city, where most of the population and most of the children with treatable disabilities live. Thanks to SATMED and satellite technology, we will be able to increase our presence in the rest of the country, even in the most remote areas – the platform serves as an extender, especially as we pilot the use of a cloud-based database which can be used on a smart phone. Patients can be identified out in the field, in their homes and villages, and then their files, including photos, can be created and entered into the database from anywhere. We can sync this mobile database with our hospital one, and schedule the patients for surgery on the spot. This is the future, not only for CURE but for healthcare worldwide – eliminating the distance between the patient and the healthcare provider.