Elon Musk’s SpaceX provides satellite internet for rural healthcare

Giles Bruce

A rural Appalachian healthcare provider has boosted its connectivity by switching to Starlink satellite internet from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Virginia Business reported.

Health Wagon operates mobile clinics that visit 13 sites in six Virginia counties, as well as two bricks-and-mortar medical clinics and a dental clinic, according to the Aug. 31 story. The nonprofit previously relied on spotty cellular hotspot service, which two of its mobile sites lacked altogether. Providers there couldn’t access EHRs or connect patients with specialists through telehealth.

So Health Wagon started contracting with Starlink, which beams internet via low-Earth-orbiting satellites, the news outlet reported. Two years of service and hardware cost $18,050, which was covered with donations.

“It’ll just minimize hiccups,” Joseph Aloi, MD, section chief of endocrinology and metabolism at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Health and a Health Wagon volunteer, told Virginia Business.

The nonprofit is also now able to offer a retina camera that screens patients for eye diseases, immediately sending images to Charlottesville, Va.-based UVA Health for review, according to the story.