One of Elon Musk’s relatively recent and most successful initiatives is SpaceX, an advanced aerospace technology company with a mission of “Making Humanity Multiplanetary”. The company has celebrated some incredible milestones so far, from its successful transport of astronauts into space, to its bold steps in making missile technology reusable and, therefore, more cost-effective.
Video Source / Credit: SpaceX Youtube Channel
An interesting subdivision of SpaceX is Starlink, which is Musk’s initiative to increase global connectivity. Starlink’s mission is to use a global network of satellites in low earth orbit to “deliver high-speed broadband Internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive or completely unavailable.” While satellite internet itself is not a new concept, most traditional systems use outdated technologies that have far less capabilities in terms of internet speed, connectivity and sustainability. Starlink’s goal is to provide high speed broadband connection Internet, using state-of-the-art satellite systems which also will not add to the space pollution created by traditional systems. As of now, the company says it “is aiming for service in the northern United States and Canada in 2020, expanding rapidly to achieve near-global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”
For many, high-speed broadband internet has tremendous implications for connectivity. One of the most important potential benefits of this technology could be its impact on health care and access to care in disadvantaged areas.
For decades it has been recognized that rural sites in America have poor access to health care. This has not been helped by the increasing burnout trend in health care professions, as well as a growing shortage of doctors.
Experts have said the rise of telemedicine could be a possible solution to help with this problem. Digital platforms that can deliver healthcare effectively and safely regardless of distance or location can potentially provide a viable solution for connecting disadvantaged populations with the care they need. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a great test of this technology. As stay-at-home and social distancing orders became the norm this year due to the coronavirus, many health systems and, in turn, patients, have often had to rely on telemedicine for their care needs.
Of course, as telemedicine services continue to grow, regulators, healthcare professionals and innovators will need to keep an eye on many issues that will inevitably emerge, including data storage issues, cybersecurity issues, and most importantly, the best way to protect patient privacy and information. The latter is of particular concern given the growing trends in health cybersecurity breaches over the past decade.
However, if the appropriate regulators can actually solve the problems that telemedicine brings, there is a significant opportunity for this technology to have an impact. The market has also been receptive to this, with telemedicine companies gaining huge amounts of use and market share this year alone. In fact, studies indicate that the telemedicine market is poised for a CAGR of 25.2% (compound annual growth rate) and a valuation of nearly $ 559.5 billion by 2027.
However, one of the most important limiting factors for telemedicine is connectivity. Because of the same degree of remoteness that causes health care shortages in rural areas, these locations also often lack reliable, high-speed Internet connections of the kind needed to support stable telemedicine applications and platforms.
This is where Starlink could potentially become a game changer. If the Starlink service can actually deliver high-speed broadband Internet services to rural populations, it could solve yet another piece of the puzzle in increasing access to care in disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, the applications of this technology are endless and go far beyond the American paradigm of rural health care. The Starlink concept, if proven to be scalable and effective, may someday be able to deliver the Internet around the world, providing the opportunity for underserved communities around the world to receive the medical care they need.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, as the pipeline and scope Musk is envisioning with this technology is by no means rudimentary. However, if Starlink is able to sustainably, sustainably and safely scale this technology around the world, its potential impact on healthcare will represent an unprecedented paradigm shift.