UK: Satellite Applications: E-Health

Satellites are playing an increasing role in the support of health and welfare on Earth. In the first of a series of bulletins looking at the range of satellite applications, this brief note summarises how satellite technology can assist in the provision of efficient health care and touches on some relevant legal issues.

The value of satellite applications for health

There has been a limited awareness of space capabilities by the medical/health profession and an equally limited understanding of users' needs by the satellite industry. However, due to factors such as an ageing-population and a reduction in health practitioners, particularly in rural areas, medical support involving a satellite element is being looked upon as an increasingly feasible solution. It also provides a cost-effective and accessible solution in developing countries where populations lack even basic levels of health care due to remoteness, poverty and lack of availability of local skills.

The use of satellite communications can play a role in several areas. Some examples are mentioned below.  

Diagnosis, consultations, treatment and health monitoring

Many isolated and vulnerable people need effective and timely monitoring of their health and tele-diagnosis. This is also useful in emergency situations.

Satellite communications provide the ability for remote medical diagnosis and remote medical care in the home, which is particularly important for the growing ageing society, which may require assisted living. The World Health Organisation recently published the statistic that there are 600 million people globally who are over 60 years of age, and that 860 million people worldwide are living with a chronic condition.

Several satellite communications applications and services are already providing isolated populations with access to healthcare and medical practitioners with second opinions or additional support (e.g. tele-diagnosis in the absence of local expertise and health monitoring to enhance homecare, mobility and the autonomy of the ageing population). This is also coupled with a trend towards greater patient involvement and more general health awareness.

The market for remote patient monitoring services is lucrative, and will only become more so. Such services may include, for example:

(a)     the monitoring of elderly or chronically ill patients at home (for example checking blood pressure and cardiac and lung function diagnostics, for the treatment of asthma, etc), and regular diagnosis by telecommunication, allowing patients to stay at home rather than in hospital for lengthy periods; and

(b)     the preliminary diagnosis of patients in remote areas to allow an efficient assessment as to whether such patients should be taken to hospital and, if so, to which hospital or centre for treatment.

In general, remote diagnosis through the means of satellite telecommunications with the assistance of expert healthcare professionals will allow for quicker, more accurate and efficient decision-making regarding the treatment or transport of a patient. This may avoid the unnecessary use of expensive rescue facilities.

Emergency Services and Disaster Response

Miniaturised sensing equipment can be used to send data to a medical centre by means of a satellite system during emergencies and in relation to disaster response and rescue activities.

The European Space Agency's DELTASS (Disaster Emergency Logistic Telemedicine Advanced Satellite System), for example, is a space-based system designed to assist with disaster response operations and the management of medical aid in situations such as earthquakes, storms and floods. In such events, the satellite components may complement damaged terrestrial communications infrastructure. DELTASS allows the transmission of medical data directly from the disaster zone to medical or coordination centres, thus enabling mobile rescue services to co-ordinate their activities. It also enables real time tele-diagnosis through images by specialised medical doctors.

Commercial Aviation

Telemedicine by satellite can also support diagnosis and medical assistance on-board commercial aviation. Such a system could provide a multimedia data exchange between the aircraft and a ground based medical centre to support decisions as to whether to land, divert the flight or what action to take on board the aircraft.

Medical Tele-education

Tele-education can assist health care workers in remote areas with medical tasks and monitoring for which they are not, and perhaps cannot be, adequately trained for. Satellite communications can support the development of, and access to, tele-education, enabling a medical practitioner, or even a patient, to access medical information to improve his or her knowledge and skills remotely, particularly where ground-based internet or other means of communications are not available. This service may also provide longer-term education needs, where no local means are available.

Early Warning System

Satellite communications can also assist in the gathering of data to predict and track disease  progression and associated risks of outbreaks.

A satellite system will also provide a resilient and efficient way to distribute warnings and information over large areas to ensure that adequate measures are put in place to safeguard health and to deal with the consequences of catastrophic events.

Relevant legal issues 

Satellite and telecommunications regulations, at a national, regional and international level, are clearly relevant to the satellite applications mentioned above. As our general Communications and Satellite Bulletins tend to deal with these industry-specific regulations, it is worth briefly mentioning some more general legal issues in the context of e-health in this note. Such legal issues will, for example, include the following:

Data Protection

The operator of such a system must ensure compliance with data protection regulations in respect to the gathering and storage of personal data, including sensitive personal medical data and ensure that its foreign operations are similarly compliant. Particular issues may concern the transfer of such data inside and outside the European Union.

In the case of processing personal data in various jurisdictions, a consistent approach should be developed to questions of privacy and to defining the responsibilities of those who have access to e-health records and share such records. Legal issues include those of patient access; correction of records; openness and transparency; patient choice; limitations to the collection, use, and disclosure of personal health information; data integrity; safeguards; and accountability.

Data protection supervisory authorities tend to be conservative about the processing of sensitive personal medical data and will examine the necessity and the purpose of the data processing, and ensure that the informed consent of the patients has been given. Therefore, any patients participating in e-health monitoring, or related activities, should be provided with easy-to-read, standard notices about how their personal health information is protected and some assurance that those who misuse information will be held accountable.

The safe-keeping of electronic medical records is also of primary importance. Data processors should be aware of what needs to be done on the occurrence of a data security breach in order to comply with the relevant statutory or contractual notification obligations.


There are several detailed health-related regulations that must be complied with such as those concerning medical devices, and in vitro and implantable medical devices.

Currently, the lack of an overall tele-health reimbursement regulation is an obstacle globally; thus, the regulatory environment is expected to change.

Product Liability

General principles of product liability will be applicable and the concept of strict liability will be relevant in relation to health related products.

Intellectual Property

The recognition of the presence of patent and trademark issues in the telemedicine sector is also important.

Contract drafting

Careful contract drafting is a necessity in the field of e-health as it involves many players, not only from the telecommunications and satellite sector but also from the health care sector. Thus, the responsibilities and the tasks of the parties need to be separated clearly and the liability towards the end-users has to be reflected in the various agreements.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 28/02/2011.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions