Telemedicine: A tool for patient empowerment
A special ‘European file’ edition focusing on Telemedicine was recently published under the leadership of Gerard Comyn, Vice-President CATEL, and former Head of Unit ‘ICT for Health’, DG INFSO, European Commission.
Telemedicine is a key activity at the COCIR, the European Trade Association representing the Radiology, Healthcare IT and Electromedical Industries.
The Telemedicine Toolkit developed by COCIR - which has been highly appreciated by several stakeholders - is designed to be the essential reference guide to telemedicine. It contains a position paper, a glossary of terms and a database of referenced studies on the effectiveness of telemedicine solutions.
As expressed by Elena Bonfiglioli, “Microsoft supported this work alongside other industry leaders like Bosch and Philips because it aligns very well with our strategy to leverage the power of technology to enable prevention and care, as well as to empower patients and deliver greater access and better outcomes.”
Read more and give us your feedback on the issues discussed in this dossier, in particular our five recommendations for better deployment of telehealth:
‘European file’: Telemedicine
Telemedicine is an emerging technology in the field of healthcare and one which has huge potential to help healthcare systems respond to today’s challenges such as the demands of the ageing population, an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes and health disease, a shortage of healthcare professionals and rising healthcare costs which put a strain on national budgets.
COCIR, the association which represents the healthcare IT industry in Europe as well as the radiology and electromedical sectors of the medical industry, recognised the importance of telemedicine early on, working on issues like data protection and electronic patient records. We then formed a dedicated focus group in 2009 to work on a smooth introduction of telemedicine into society and the need for an appropriate legal framework.
Our member companies have considerable expertise and have invested heavily in R&D in this area. We count pure IT companies as well as healthcare companies among our membership. Company representatives contribute their time generously to COCIR’s activities, both on technical areas and in policy discussions in order to promote the development and deployment of eHealth solutions as a key enabler for sustainable healthcare.
We believe that telemedicine can improve the quality of life of patients, empower the patient to manage their health, reduce hospitalisations and prevent exacerbations. Telemedicine can contribute to disease prevention and can leverage information technology. This view is also supported by policymakers. A speaker from the European Commission told participants of the COCIR Focus Group that telemedicine has the potential to alleviate some of the pressure on healthcare systems, for example the demographic changes which will lead to more patients needing long-term care. As a tool for prevention and care, telemedicine can empower patients to take control of their care and to shift more patients from the hospital to home, therefore improving their quality of life, the Commission speaker said.
This vision was outlined in the COCIR white paper ‘Towards a sustainable healthcare model' which is available on our website. Taking this concept forward, we produced the Telemedicine Toolkit. The Toolkit contains a position paper, a glossary of terms and a database of referenced studies on the effectiveness of telemedicine solutions and is designed to be the essential reference guide to telemedicine.
All of these tools respond to the need to clarify telemedicine – what it is, which technologies are included and what is needed for its widespread take-up. We have no doubt that telemedicine presents opportunities for empowering patients, particularly in the better management of chronic diseases. A patient who can be monitored from their home, for example, need not suffer the inconvenience and potential ill-effects of travelling to a medical facility for a regular check-up. This is particularly helpful for patients in rural or isolated areas and for elderly people.
The position paper includes five concrete recommendations for a stronger telemedicine sector in Europe, identifying the combined role of various stakeholders and the importance of working together to secure better access, empower patients, reduce health inequalities and optimise efficiency of the total healthcare system.
One of COCIR’s goals with the Telemedicine Toolkit is to define common terminology as different terms are already in use. In all areas of our activities, we work towards internationally-recognised standards for efficiency for our members and to prevent the creation of trade barriers. The COCIR Glossary of Terms proposes clear definitions for the terms used in telemedicine and we encourage all stakeholders to use these definitions to ensure a better understanding among all actors.
Not only does telemedicine have huge potential for patients but it is also a market where Europe excels and has excellent potential for growth and job creation. We understand the balancing act policymakers face as they strive to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare whilst managing costs and promoting innovation. Telemedicine can contribute to meeting these needs and as an industry we will continue to work with all stakeholders towards a more patient-focussed sustainable healthcare system for the future.
We are pleased to host on our website contributions from external experts and stakeholders and we are grateful for their time and thoughts. The content developed by our guest bloggers is purely the reflections of the author and does not necessarily reflect Microsoft positions.
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