How remote connectivity helped Aspen Medical support communities and save lives through COVID-19

Article content

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most challenging and uncertain periods in history for the Australian healthcare industry.

While healthcare organisations and practitioners did an incredible job managing the crisis, they had to shift and adapt their processes almost overnight to meet demand and keep people safe. One organisation that led that charge was Aspen Medical, an Australian-owned health service provider that’s focused on responding rapidly to healthcare challenges anywhere around the globe.

Given the organisation’s experience managing health crises all over the world—including the set-up of Ebola clinics in West Africa and several field hospitals in Iraq—the Australian Government approached Aspen Medical in March 2020 to manage the setup of GP-led respiratory clinics. These clinics were strategically placed around the country to augment the national testing effort due to the initial COVID-19 outbreak. From setting up five clinics in the first two weeks, it quickly escalated to 150 within three months.

Aspen Medical was required to equip these clinics with reliable connectivity and IT functionality. They needed to be capable of connecting several printers, tablets, mobile phones, and PCs back to their corporate network and government partners.

With little to no fixed infrastructure available at the sites, Aspen Medical engaged Telstra—as a long-time partner—to help them safely and securely deploy the wireless connectivity infrastructure.

Inspired by a successful wireless network deployment at the organisation’s aircraft hangar in Karratha, Aspen Medical and Telstra partnered with edge network specialists Cradlepoint to supply 4G LTE AER2200 routers and mobile devices to all of the sites.

Deploying critical infrastructure when time is of the essence

Aspen Medical worked with Telstra and Cradlepoint to craft a networking solution that could be quickly and easily deployed without having to send technical teams to each site.

The team worked alongside Telstra MSP partner Star21 to source all the necessary devices amid supply chain challenges. They then configured them and installed SIMs, before packaging them up and sending them out.

Each clinic received exactly what they needed to get connectivity up and running, with ‘clinic-in-a-box’ functionality that allowed them to get connected to the Telstra 4G LTE network quickly and easily. If issues arose, Aspen Medical had full visibility over their network and devices through Cradlepoint’s NetCloud control plane, allowing them to troubleshoot from a centralised location.

The connectivity worked so well for Aspen Medical that they even set up a mobile clinic in an RV, with Cradlepoint devices plugged into the vehicle’s power supply. This allowed them to provide much-needed additional COVID-19 testing capability in Boggabri, regional New South Wales.

Simplicity and scalability were at the heart of this deployment. While the clinics were initially only tasked with providing COVID-19 testing, they quickly adapted and scaled to also deliver COVID-19 vaccinations. Telstra and Star21 provided continuous support to Aspen Medical to ensure the clinics had the right equipment and connectivity to run the extended services. Aspen Medical continues to provide these critical services today, offering much-needed healthcare and support to customers and hundreds of regional communities.

“I can’t talk highly enough about the support that we got. People talk about Telstra as a big company, but it felt like we were the same team working towards a mutual goal. That strategic relationship was so important. As busy as I was, I could be confident they would just make things happen.”

Sanja Marais, General Manager of Technology & Innovation at Aspen Medical

An agile network that spurred business transformation

The success of their GP-led respiratory clinic rollout has given Aspen Medical a foundation for further network transformation and innovation.

The organisation recently managed COVID-19 testing for Australian Grand Prix participants and worked with Tennis Australia to run testing and quarantine services at their events. They used Cradlepoint devices and Telstra’s connectivity and support to power these clinics, as they have become the organisation’s de facto partners for remote events.

Going forward, Aspen Medical is assessing how it can incorporate 5G connectivity at its remote clinics to support more connected devices. The organisation says 5G will be a powerful tool to support more devices – such as remote diagnostics devices larger clinics, and better-quality services in remote environments.

“We've rolled out wireless connectivity, but there’s so much more we can do with the wireless devices,” Marais explains. “When 5G comes on board, it’s going to grow our capacity for connected devices, and support further innovation around Telehealth and virtual care. It’s exciting to see what’s around the corner.”

The GP-led respiratory clinics have delivered a total of roughly 2.85 million assessments and 2.43 million vaccinations since the program started. It’s an astounding outcome that proves high-quality health services needn’t be limited to metro areas, even in times of crisis.

Aspen Medical has played a critical role in Australia’s COVID-19 response. Through quick thinking and with the right partners, their work has made healthcare accessible to vulnerable communities across the country, driving positive health outcomes.