We are excited to share with you the second newsletter of the ICU4Covid project. It presents the inputs and outputs of the project as well as where the project vision is headed.
Facing the future: European Telehealth Network (ETN) in acute care
Dr. Tal Soffer
(Anat Soroka Zuta, Sky Sofer)
Tel Aviv University
The ICU4COVID project began as a response to the COVID 19 pandemic. The aim of the project was to deliver intensive medicinal treatment fit to fight against COVID-19 and provide European citizens with rapid care along with providing safety for the health workforce, by delivering that care through the Cyber-physical- system for tele and intensive care medicine.
One of the main challenges in the implementation of innovative technologies in organizations in general and in health organizations, is the synergy between technology and society. The ability to remove the barriers and encourage the advantages and benefits. One of the ways for successful implementation is through co-creation process, which advocates the cooperation of all stakeholders from the very beginning. This approach was widely adopted during the project by identifying the relevant stakeholders and making them an integral part of the implementation process of the CPS4TIC system. Through various activities such as: ongoing meetings, interviews, and workshops we shared ideas, collected information and insights that significantly contributed to the project’s activities.
In the final stage, as the project is set to end after a two-year span, we are looking towards to establish a European Telehealth Network (ETN), based on the insights and outputs of the ICU4COVID project. Consequently, in our final meeting which took place during the Madeira Digital Transformation Summit with all partners we conducted a workshop, based on a world café methodology to discuss the initiation of European Telehealth Network in acute care. To explore the challenges and obstacles, the threats and risks, incentives, and future needs. The participants were worked in groups, each group had a moderator and rapporteur (figure 1). During the discussion the participants used stickers and notes to write their ideas and create their “story” for future ETN. The discussions were very lively, and the participants contributed from their rich experience in the various fields (medical, technological, social).
Figure 1: World café methodology – The European Telehealth Network in acute care
The results of the discussion yielded interesting and important ideas that could assist in the initiation of the future ETN, based on the projects’ results. The following are highlights from the insights which raised during the discussion:
Challenges and obstacles: The challenges as well as the obstacles raised by the participants were mainly focusing on technological issues such as: low stability of the infrastructure at the hospital; low Internet connection and luck of interoperability connections between the different systems within the hospitals and between other hospitals. Other challenges referred to societal aspects which emphasize the knowledge gap in digital skills to medical professionals; the resistance to use technology by the healthcare team due to the fear of dependency, preserving the interpersonal connections with patients – empathy. Finally financial aspects were also raised to establish such network.
The main risks and threats that were discussed were also refer to the technology domain, specifically the safety and vulnerability of the technological systems, and the ability to penetrate the hospital's databases and disrupt and even paralysis the daily activities that may cause damages and injury to human life. The privacy issue also discussed – how to balance between the use of technologies and privacy. In the social aspects - physician skepticism regarding the digitization of health care can pose a serious threat to a new ETN. Other concerns raised when collecting the data were lack of in person care because of the telemedical services.
Therefore, to promote the implementation of ETN we discussed the future needs and incentives. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest incentives in initiating ETN is the ability to provide better medical treatment, personalized, and flexible - anywhere, at any time, and to anyone. It enables the medical teams to save time spent on administrative activities for the benefit of patient care. It will also create more efficient hospital communications. Thus, to successfully initiate ETN we need to address all the above, understand the future needs and provide solutions. Hence, the participants sketched number of future needs and solutions to support the establishment of ETN. From the technological point of view, it is necessary to adapt the technological infrastructures to the needs of the systems, to ensure the interoperability with the hospitals’ systems, as well as the stability of the infrastructural (e.g. the internet). In addition, to establish cybersecurity system to protect the data base at the hospital and in the network and to create data standardization. In the social aspect, it is necessary to develop suitable educational curriculum to provide the young generation the acquired knowledge and practices to use digital technologies in health. Provide dedicated training to medical teams relating to digital health and telemedicine. Develop and establish organizational policies and procedures for the implementation and use of telemedicine as well as enforce the privacy and data protection laws. And finally, to foster engagement, transparency, and cooperation with all relevant stakeholders, with a special emphasis on the patient at the center.