Hospitals in low-resource settings, such as those in Haiti, often face challenges connecting to the internet. Without a reliable internet connection, healthcare workers are unable to provide the necessary services and deliver quality care to patients. As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, internet connection, including remote management, became even more critical to hospitals Build Health International teamed up with Peplink to offer sustainable internet solutions to two hospitals in Haiti, starting first in Wesleyan Hospital in La Gonave Island before expanding to Saint Rock Hospital in Saint Rock, Haiti.
Dedicated to enabling dignified, affordable, and high-quality healthcare for all, Build Health International (BHI) designs and delivers innovative healthcare solutions to low-resource settings to communities throughout the world. BHI’s evidence-based approach uses the expertise from architects and engineers to adapt services to each community’s specific healthcare needs, as well as providing healthcare and employment opportunities to areas that need it most. The organization specializes in planning, building, equipping, and operating facilities and energy systems in low-resource settings.
In its work, BHI oversees many, if not all, aspects of the construction of a healthcare facility, from planning phases and construction to day-to-day operation and maintenance. To sustain BHI’s efforts–and to provide adequate, dignified healthcare services across healthcare facilities–internet connectivity is essential. Because BHI builds in remote areas that oftentimes have little to no electrical coverage, access to reliable internet connectivity can be challenging. However, thanks to Peplink and FrontierUS channel partner, Access Wireless Data Solutions, BHI can source internet connectivity for rural communities where needed.
One of BHI’s specializations is to provide solar arrays, such as the one that powers Wesleyan Hospital on La Gonave Island, Haiti. While working in La Gonave, BHI Director of IT and Special Projects, Andrew Jones, quickly realized that internet connectivity was essential to equipment functionality. “As the technology advances, internet is needed for firmware updates, remote monitoring, remote management, and sometimes just for pieces of equipment to communicate with each other locally,” said Jones. To solve this issue, he worked to equip the community with state-of-the-art solar technology from Tesla and SMA Solar Technology.
With the primary energy source confirmed, Jones began researching potential cellular solutions to meet hospital needs. “I ended up on Len’s [Luttinger of Access Wireless Data Solutions] doorstep, and he told me everything that I needed to know [about Peplink],” said Jones. The ideal device would allow for at least two SIM cards to provide primary internet connection and–in the result of failure–a backup option. Additionally, remote access would be necessary to oversee and manage the local network. “We now have a MAX Transit Duo on the island, and it’s humming along nicely. It’s great to know that when the internet connection goes down–and there are a lot of reasons it can go down–the Peplink device is not the problem.”
As it turned out, high-speed internet connection from Peplink products created more possibilities for BHI and their partners than previously anticipated. Understanding the value that reliable connectivity provides to healthcare workers and facilities, BHI developed the “Internet Box,” a Peplink-based solution designed to be easily deployed and operating on location. Demand for Internet Boxes increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as facility staff members required greater access to collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for critical care and operations. Build Health International installed a total of six boxes in Haiti.
Those same tools also provided useful to sustaining collaboration during the planning and build phases of BHI’s various projects. VPN technology in particular has proven to be a significant benefit. In remote communities with poor internet connectivity, such as Saint Rock, Haiti, SpeedFusion provides better connection to resources. For example, one of BHI’s primary solar technicians is based in Spain. If he needed to service a project in Haiti, he would have to spend multiple days traveling to the site. However, Peplink’s equipment created a more feasible solution. “With the Peplink VPN, he can be in ‘in front’ of the equipment in a matter of seconds,” said Jones.
Additionally, Peplinks’ connectivity could be utilized to assess conditions on the ground. When outfitting Wesleyan Hospital with solar panels, security issues in Haiti restricted travel into the country. Despite this challenge, the Peplink VPN allowed the project to proceed on schedule. The hospital, which is run by World Hope International, now has access to power, is energy independent, and is also reducing its operational costs while also minimizing its carbon footprint.
For BHI, another one of Peplink’s most distinctive qualities is its SpeedFusion, its enterprise- grade bandwidth bonding. This involves putting two SIM cards from two different carriers in the same device, guaranteeing full coverage in case one provider fails. Device users can access those cards interchangeably and simultaneously.
“With permission from the partner, in this case, the Saint Rock Haiti Foundation, we always try to set up a guest network for individuals who are trying to call home or update loved ones elsewhere in the country,” said Jones. “In Saint Rock, we have two SIM cards and a single fiber connection, and we’re using SpeedFusion to bond them. In our last speed test, the hospital had more bandwidth than [BHI’s] office in Beverly, Massachusetts.”
Stable internet connectivity has further increased the quality of healthcare, as hospital staff are able to consult with outside experts and resources that would otherwise be unreachable. “It provides an additional player of support that enhances clinicians’ ability to do their jobs day-to-day and deliver critical care,” said Sarah Sceery, BHI’s Director of External Relations and Engagement.
Powered by renewable energy sources and a steady, reliable internet connection, healthcare workers at Wesleyan Hospital and Saint Rock Hospital are able to fully focus on their mission at hand: saving lives.