LUXEMBOURG CITY • Had it not been for the floating hospitals cruising the Brahmaputra river region in northern Bangladesh and providing free basic medical care, most of the area's inhabitants might never have had the chance to come face to face with a doctor.
And many might not even be alive today.
"More specifically, (those living along) a stretch of around 250km in that region," explains Mr Marc Elvinger from the Luxembourg Friendship branch. "Up to 10,000 people live on each of the approximately 400 islands."
Until recently, the three floating hospitals had a key problem: the Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital, Emirates Friendship Hospital and Rongdhonu Friendship Hospital (formerly Rainbow Warrior II) had no connection with one another.
Discussions and consultations among the doctors and nurses across their respective ships were not possible. The same applied to contact with colleagues on the mainland - until Satmed was launched at the beginning of April.
The invention of SES Techcom Services - a wholly owned subsidiary of the Luxembourg satellite operator SES - is revolutionary: with Satmed, the communication concerns of the Bangladesh floating hospitals were thrown overboard overnight.
The eHealth platform enables the medical teams to connect digitally, providing them with offboard medical knowledge.
"Thus everything on board and on site is altered. The team on board can now transmit, for example, X-rays to specialists on the mainland and consult with them on further medical steps. All this was previously unthinkable," says Mr Elvinger.
Satmed enables systematic and therefore efficient patient management: people are not necessarily treated on the same ship, making digital patient records all the more important. They can be viewed by all doctors or medical assistants, no matter which ship they happen to be on. Satmed is comparable to a cloud-based solution. However, the invention is not limited to the floating hospitals; the so-called satellite clinics with trained nursing staff on the mainland also draw benefits from Satmed.
These include, among others, remote diagnoses through the consultations of doctors as well as the systematic monitoring of patients.
As a welcome side-effect of Satmed, a medical documentation centre will be able to develop in the medium term. Even training for the nursing staff on board and on the mainland is imaginable - and in the works.
"Everything that has long been an established standard in terms of connectivity in Luxembourg was wishful thinking in northern Bangladesh until very recently," says Mr Elvinger about the significance of the SES invention.