As one of the most sparsely populated areas in the country, Alaska presents a host of challenges for rural telemedicine, such as having sufficient bandwidth to support the demands of live video, but it also offers a wealth of opportunities for the industry—namely, minimizing highly inconvenient travel requirements and allowing specialists to see more patients within a given day. Recently, Partners In Energy (PIE) Advisors put the swyMed DOT Telemedicine Backpack to the test in Alaska’s wilderness to test its connectivity and performance in extremely remote, unforgiving environments, with the ultimate goal of using this tool to deliver a higher standard of healthcare to the underserved indigenous population.
The demonstration project, a collaboration between swyMed, PIE Advisors, Mackay Communications, and the Telehealth Technology Assessment Center (TTAC), provided “proof of concept” that broadband communication—and thus telemedicine—can indeed be achieved in such challenging environments by either standard cell-service connection or satellite connectivity, regardless of location. Mick Dubuis from PIE carried the DOT Backpack across some of Alaska’s most challenging regions, including Denali National Park and Spencer Glacier.
Dubuis first dreamt of a mobile backpack for remote Alaska back when he worked with the Veterans Administration’s first major telemedicine initiative, but the technology and public perception were not yet ready for such an endeavor. “Fast forward 20 years,” said Dubuis, “and the swyMed Backpack is basically what we had discussed 20 years ago!”
These days, the technology is definitely available, and the public is eager to embrace the concept. As Dubuis explained, “People were really interested in what I was doing. The Rangers, the guides, the boat captains, and people that live in Alaska completely see the application of this equipment and how it can help provide faster diagnostics for a critical event. I had numerous conversations with both people with clinical training and those without who were fascinated by the ability to create a telemedicine-enabled location virtually anywhere.”
The swyMed DOT Telemedicine Backpack, originally designed to bring real-time video consultations with specialists into ambulances despite potentially poor network conditions, has been deployed across Europe, Russia, India, and other regions. The unit can also be used separately from the ambulance as an easily deployable telemedicine solution for clinics at remote locations such as ranger stations and oil platforms.
Scroll down for pictures of Mick’s trip.
To read more or view more photos about PIE Advisors’ project and trip to Alaska, visit their website here.
To learn more about the swyMed DOT Telemedicine Backpack, click here.