June 2007

Med-e-Tel 2007: An International Platform Showcasing e-Health

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A new introduction at Med-e-Tel was Estele, a robotics system for tele-echography, introduced by the French company named Robosoft. Estele is a tele-operated robotic system allowing any expert clinician to perform remotely ultrasound diagnosis as if he were “on site”. The system is based, on a light 4-axis ultrasound Probe Holder Robot (positioned on the patient by any medical assistant), and remotely controlled by a specialist. A bi-directional videoconferencing system allows the patient and the specialist to communicate as if they are in the same room, while the specialist can visualize the ultrasound images and see and talk with the patient.

On 18-20 April 2007, the Luxexpo Exhibition and Congress Centre in Luxembourg was once again host to the international Med-e-Tel conference. The international event focuses on telemedicine and e-Health. In its fifth edition,  this annual event attracted some 400 participants from over 50 countries in Europe and other parts of the world.

In the opening session on April 18th, Dr. Mark Blatt, Director of Worldwide Healthcare Strategy for the Digital Health Group at Intel Corporation, provided an overview of how the emergence of new technologies and policies like broadband, VoIP, standardized remote monitoring use cases, and PHR expansion might effect the telemedicine environment in the near future. He showed how a paradigm shift is taking place within the healthcare ecosystem, empowering the end users (the citizen, the patient) to take control of their own health, and highlighted Intel's involvement in the new Continua Health Alliance – a global consortium of medical and ICT companies and healthcare providers- who are aiming to develop and market interoperable health and wellness monitoring devices.

e-Health Coordinator at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Dr. Yunkap Kwankam, gave an update on WHO's current e-Health strategy, and an overview of its implementations around the world. After the WHO passed its eHealth Resolution in 2005, e-Health has been put firmly and permanently on the agenda of national governments and the WHO itself. The resolution urged member states to draw up a long-term strategic plan for developing and implementing e-Health services in the various areas of health sectors, including health administration.

In his presentation during the opening session, Dr. Michael Nerlich, President of the International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth (ISfTeH) and Dean of the Medical Faculty at the University of Regensburg (Germany), presented the eHCC (eHealth Competence Center)- a newly created e-Health research group- which aims to be part of the e-Health standardization. He also unveiled plans for an international e-Health master program. Prof. Krishnan Ganapathy,  the Head of the Apollo Telemedicine Foundation in India, commented on the evolution, growth and development of the Apollo Foundation, and presented a demo of the world's first VSAT-enabled village hospital.

Rolien de Jong, Head of Innovative Services at Dutch homecare provider Meavita, talked about their positive experiences with a telehealth platform that enables them to provide self-management services for their chronic care patients (elderly patients, patients with diabetes, etc.).The patient is considered to be responsible and capable to change his/her behaviour via the Meavita self-management program. Step-by-step knowledge and experience are built up by the interpretation of the data, which are gathered from the patient on a daily basis through the telehealth platform. The presentation actually showed how Dr. Blatt's vision of the paradigm shift within the healthcare ecosystem is already taking place and empowering patients to take control of their own health.

Overall, the conference, with its enriching presentations and discussions, presented a wonderful educative and interactive experience for the e-Health practitioners and researchers across the globe. According to Frederic Lievens, International Coordinator for Med-e-Tel, “In short, Med-e-Tel offered unique opportunities to discover telemedicine and e-Health products, services and innovative technologies, to gather updated information through the extensive conference programs, to network with contacts from around the world, and to establish new partnerships.”

The themes of ageing and maintaining quality of life for the elderly, disabled and people with special needs through the use of telemedicine and e-Health tools and services, were high on the agenda at this year's Med-e-Tel. According to Lievens, “With the rise in chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart failure or asthma, to name but a few, telemonitoring technologies offer tremendous opportunities to keep track of one's health and physical wellbeing, allowing for timely interventions when things start deteriorating.” He asserted that, “We are proud that we were able to work together at this year's Med-e-Tel with organizations such as the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing, and also the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, to provide an insight into how the use of technology can be a possible solution to the challenges facing patients/citizens, caregivers and governments in our ageing society.”

One of the best attended sessions at Med-e-Tel 2007 was the one on 'Mobile eHealth Solutions', in which the World Health Organization's strategy for 'mHealth' was discussed. The WHO is currently looking at what various donors, policymakers, and implementing partners are doing to support mobile e-Health activities throughout the world with a special focus on low resource settings and developing countries. Some of the other sessions at Med-e-Tel included 'eHealth for Developing Countries', 'Successes in Telecardiology', 'eHealth for Diabetes Management', 'Advanced Systems Strategies for eHospitals', 'Efficiency in eHealth', 'eHealth Support to Surgery and Traumatology',  'Mobile IT Solutions in Emergency Medicine', 'Optimizing Collaboration among eHealth Projects in Low Resource Settings' among others.

Med-e-Tel also featured an exhibition, which provided a look at some of the practical developments that have been made in the area of e-Health, and the products and technologies that are available from companies such as A&D Medical, Aerotel Medical Systems, Alcatel-Lucent, AMD Telemedicine, Card Guard, Cisco, Hippocad, Honeywell HomMed, IBM, Impact Care, IRIS, ISIS, Omron, Robosoft, RTX Healthcare, t+ Medical, Viterion TeleHealthcare as well as many others.

RTX Healthcare presented the new RTX3370 Telehealth Monitor at Med-e-Tel. It is an interactive and simple to use device, designed specifically to improve the way of providing healthcare to patients outside hospitals, suffering from chronic diseases such as heart failure, COPD, diabetes and other chronic diseases. “The RTX3370 Telehealth Monitor is targeting the disease management and home healthcare industry to monitor chronically ill patients at home,” says Bjarne Flou, Managing Director of RTX Healthcare. “The uniqueness of our product is that it is offered as a system device which interoperates directly with our clients clinical information systems. Our business model is based on hardware sales, compared to most other competing solutions in the industry, where the devices are tied up to a proprietary infrastructure and the business models are based on a monthly fee, fee per user and likewise,” he added. 

Another new introduction at Med-e-Tel was Estele, a robotics system for tele-echography, introduced by the French company named Robosoft. Estele is a tele-operated robotic system, allowing any expert clinician to perform remotely ultrasound diagnosis as if he were “on site”. The system is based, on a light 4-axis ultrasound Probe Holder Robot (positioned on the patient by any medical assistant), and remotely controlled by a specialist. A bi-directional videoconferencing system allows the patient and the specialist to communicate as if they are in the same room, while the specialist can visualize both the ultrasound images and see and talk with the patient. Impact Care from The Netherlands presented its telehealth platform with embedded video telephony over the TV screen, which currently already allows elderly care organizations in The Netherlands to significantly reduce the number of home visits and to provide self-management services for chronic care patients. The same platform also allows for tele-education services among healthcare professionals.

Med-e-Tel also presented a media corner where information was provided about some 35 publications, magazines, journals, reports and online news and information services, in the fields of telemedicine and e-Health.   

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