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Med-e-Tel 2008

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Med-e-Tel 2008

[This article was published in the July 2008 issue of the eHEALTH Magazine (http://www.ehealthonline.org)]

The International Educational and Networking Forum for eHealth, Telemedicine and Health ICT

The International Educational and Networking Forum for eHealth, Telemedicine and Health ICT

The Luxexpo Exhibition and Congress Centre in Luxembourg was host again to the international Med-e-Tel meeting held between the 16th and 18th of April 2008. In its 6th edition this year, and with a proven track record of highly efficient and effective networking, Med-e-Tel attracted once again a qualified audience of 500 Telemedicine and eHealth industry representatives, association utives, government officials, healthcare providers, payers/insurers and researchers from 54 countries around the globe.

Telemedicine and eHealth are all about making healthcare delivery more efficient and effective and to cope with some of the challenges that lie ahead, such as an ageing population, the rise in chronic conditions, the shortage of healthcare professionals, and the healthcare budgets. And development and implementation of telemedicine and ehealth tools require good coordination and mutual understanding between all parties involved (patients/citizens, care providers, government, health insurers, industry, research), so that the tools can be implemented and used in the most optimal way.

Med-e-Tel ’08 attendees agreed almost unanimously that the conference serves a great networking purpose and that it acts as a catalyst for formtion of partnerships between the different stakeholders, providing opportunities to share experiences, demonstrate technologies, and convey user needs among people with many different backgrounds and from many different places.

This year, participants were welcomed in an official opening ceremony by Mars Di Bartolomeo, Luxembourg Minister of Health, Prof. Dr. Michael Nerlich, President of the International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth, Pierre Gramegna, Director General of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, Nick Fahy, Head of Unit, Health Information Unit, DG Health and Consumer Protection, European Commission and Prof. Giuseppe Tritto, President of the World Academy for Biomedical Technologies.

Following the opening ceremony and a tour of the exhibition, a keynote session, chaired by Frank Lievens, Secretary of the International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth, featured eight opinion leaders who shared their views and experiences on a number of current issues and initiatives, several of which were discussed further in more detail throughout various sessions of the three – day conference program.

Key Learnings

Dr. Yunkap Kwankam, eHealth Coordinator at the World Health Organisation, also present at one of the sessions, is a strong advocate of improving productivity through technology in the traditionally inefficient healthcare sector. He observed that one of the areas where technology can contribute a lot is training and education to scale up the workforce through eLearning programs. Kwankam, in his presentation also provided examples of improvement in clinical operations and increase of healthcare HR capacity through the use of electronic medical records. Health information networks are currently being put into place to collect health data and statistics for analysis, dissemination and use to support decision making in national and regional healthcare strategies, showing once again that eHealth is an essential component of any health system reform or development plans and strategies as far as WHO is concerned.

Nick Fahy of the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General (DG SANCO) of the European Commission shed light on the Commission’s “eHealth scenario for 2020”, a vision of what they would like to see operational in health ICT, from a public health and medical content point of view, in the EU context. The scenario is to provide helpful input for DG SANCO’s regulatory framework, financial envelopes and workplan, highlighting existing gaps and providing a clearer picture for coordination with the member states.

David Whitlinger, President of the Continua Health Alliance, provided an update on Continua’s progress in recent months in the development of guidelines for device makers, that should help consumers and healthcare providers to share information more easily through common communication channels such as cell phones, PCs, TV set-top boxes, telephones, and other devices.

Continua also held its Spring Summit in Luxembourg in the margin of the Med-e-Tel conference and conducted a so-called plugfest for its members, to test interoperability of devices and systems, and announced the release of Device Connectivity Standards and Healthcare Records Standards, which will lead to Continua certified products and software by the end of this year.

Michael Palmer, Project Officer at the ICT for Health Unit within the Information Society Directorate-General (DG INFSO) of the European Commission gave more background information on their recently released report on lead market opportunities for eHealth that proposes actions aiming at accelerating the development of the European eHealth market, increasing economic benefits and simultaneously develop the quality of health products and services. Palmer also highlighted details of the consultation that is being planned for this year in preparation for the Commission’s communication on telemedicine for chronic disease management.

Dr. Bill Crounse, Senior Director of Worldwide Health at Microsoft shared his perspectives on the growing opportunities for a new kind of medical practice based on personalised telehealth. “No longer in the sole domain of academic medical centres or large group practices, telemedicine has become a commodity technology with the promise to vastly improve the delivery of health information and medical services around the globe while reducing traditional doctor visits, saving money, and greatly increasing patient satisfaction,” he said. The presentation showed how innovative clinicians are incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into the practice of medicine and how organisations can benefit by staying ahead of the curve. Dr. Crounse also shared a “future vision” for healthcare that is more global, consumer-centric, based on cost and quality transparency, and personalised.

Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare, and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School talked about how telehealth in the developing world can effectively address a range of health issues, including those affecting people with chronic diseases. The use of widespread, low-cost technology, such as cell-phones, creates opportunities for improved patient education and adherence to care plans, and better access to care providers. He also discussed the vision of “connected health”, which provides opportunities for more innovative programs to address chronic disease management.

Prof. Dr. Harald Korb, Medical Director at German-based telemedicine provider Vitaphone, in his presentation at the Med-e-Tel 2008 opening session, drew from experience with thousands of cardiovascular and diabetic patients, to show that a number of favourable effects can be guaranteed when modern telemedical devices with appropriate treatment pathways according to national and international guidelines are used in integrated care models.

And Dr. Loretta Schlachta-Fairchild, President & CEO of iTeleHealth (USA), sharing thoughts and visions for the creation of an International Telenursing Working Group within the frame of the International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth, with the goal of aligning with the International Council of Nurses (ICN), a federation of national nurses’ associations, representing nurses in more than 128 countries. “Given the worldwide nursing shortage and the global shift in demographics to ageing and chronic illness, it is paramount that nurses embrace technology as a resource multiplier”, said Schlachta-Fairchild. The envisioned working group will provide information and strategies to those interested in advancing their practice in this arena.

Med-e-Tel continued with an extensive conference program which featured an additional 150 presentations and workshops on a wide variety of Telemedicine and eHealth topics.

Through the variety of conference sessions, the exhibition and an extensive media corner (featuring some 35 journals, books and magazines), participants were provided with hands-on experience and an opportunity to discover and uate new systems and technologies and to hear about the latest eHealth and Telemedicine news, trends and developments, from companies and organisations around the world such as Aerotel Medical Systems, Agfa, Aipermon, Alcatel-Lucent, Center for Connected Health, Continua Health Alliance, eHIT, European Commission, GFI, Goodit, Honeywell HomMed, Intel, InterComponentWare, International Society for Telemedicine & ehealth (and about 20 of its member organisations), Management Cockpit, Microsoft, Philips, RS TechMedic, SAS, Vitalog, Vitalsys, Vitaphone Telemedicine, World Health Organization, YUSE, and many others.

Programe Highlights

  • A session on Product Interoperability Architecture presented by the Continua Health Alliance, focusing on the how and why of product interoperability in a telehealth ecosystem.
  • Extensive focus on personal telehealth applications, experiences and research in various sessions dealing with Telehealth for Chronic Disease Management, Telehealth, Telecare and Services for the Ageing and Telehealth in Support of Self Care.
  • A workshop on the topic of Living Labs with presentation of some existing initiatives in various European countries, user feedback, transition from ‘lab’ to ‘reality’, and roadmaps ahead.
  • An overview of International Telemedicine & eHealth Initiatives and Developments by members of the International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth (ISfTeH), focusing on the current state of telemedicine and ehealth in a.o. Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland and Ukraine. The ISfTeH, which is now also an international NGO in Official Relation with the World Health Organization, also presented a joint exhibition stand on the Med-e-Tel expo together with several of its members. As an umbrella organization which currently already represents about 30 national Telemedicine and eHealth associations worldwide, as well as a number of educational and healthcare institutions, the ISfTeH provides excellent access to national experts and policy makers and researchers.
  • A mini symposium on Telenursing, a growing application, offering possibilities to reduce the use of expensive healthcare services, to reduce hospital admissions or length of stay, to perform regular check-ups on patients with chronic conditions, to spread limited resources over a large population, and to increase access to nurse education. The telenursing session included an introduction to telenursing, results from a global telenursing survey, and some real life experiences from the United States.
  • A session on Nursing Informatics: Past, Present and Future, looking at the support of nursing by information systems in delivery, documentation, administration and uation of patient care and prevention of diseases.
  • A session on eHealth for Developing Countries and Low Resource Settings, presided by the World Health Organization’s eHealth Coordinator and showing ICT’s contributions to healthcare delivery and capacity building in the developing world.
  • On a related subject, there was also a special training session on How to Develop and Implement eHealth and Telemedicine Solutions presented under the auspices of the expert group on Question 14 “Telecommunications for eHealth” within the International Telecommunication Union. The training looked at strategic planning issues for the development and implementation of eHealth services in the various areas of health sectors and the required coordination between healthcare and telecommunications authorities in the implementation of national eHealth programs (which have been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organization in its Resolution WHA58.28).
  • A workshop on Facilitating Collaboration to Facilitate Tele-Success, focusing on effective collaboration among projects and existing technologies to create an accessible, cost-effective healthcare information system. The session zoomed in on topics such as “From the Bottom Up: Designing from the User Perspective”, “What Else Is Going On? Building a Project Database”, “Practical Considerations: Infrastructure, Links, and Tools” and “Price-Performance via Open Source Tools”.
  • Various sessions on Telecardiology, Health Informatics, eLearning, eHealth in Support of Routine Medical Practice, Efficiency in eHealth, Telepsychiatry, Teledermatology and Image Transfer, Mobile Health, New Trends in eHealth showed what works and what doesn’t, as well as what exists or what is under development in Telemedicine, eHealth and Health ICT systems and solutions.
  • A regional (BeLux) seminar, endorsed by the Luxembourg Ministry of Health and the CRP-Sant (Public Institute for Research in Healthcare, Public Health and Biotechnology), about Clinical Strategy and the Use of Balanced Scorecards, showing how to create and successfully use balanced scorecards to improve clinical outcomes and overall management, taking into account the IT, medical, nursing and financial requirements and limitations. and how they can serve as an instrument to identify strengths and weaknesses in an organization and to optimise processes and outcomes, in an environment that is increasingly under financial pressure. The interactive seminar featured a look at experiences from some of the leading hospitals and organizations in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain.
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