HEALTHcare delivery OPTIMisation throUgh teleMedicine, is a Market Validation Project funded by the European Union under the eTEN Programme.
The Project aimed to demonstrate that when telemedicine services are introduced in an existing healthcare context with a strategic vision and they are seen by Regional Health Authorities as an enabler for an in-depth organisational and process reengineering, major benefits can be released for all the stakeholders (the Regional Health Authorities themselves, Local Health Authority and Trust Managers, health professionals and citizens).
Of course, for the business model to be sustainable, it was essential to demonstrate that the benefits released by the introduction of the telemedicine services and the consequent reorganisation of the healthcare delivery services can at least offset the cost for deploying and running the technical infrastructure and the services.
In the context of the Market Validation four basic telemedicine services (tele-counselling, virtual referral, tele-laboratory and tele-care) have been applied to a large number of clinical specialties and settings.
What makes HEALTH OPTIMUM a project well above the pack is that it addresses one of the major problems that most European States have to face: how to keep delivering high-quality healthcare within an ever-shrinking budget to an increasingly quality-aware and demanding population.
Experience has demonstrated that making cutbacks in individual components of the healthcare system (e.g. pharmaceuticals or hospital care) merely backfires by increasing costs in other sectors. Therefore, the only way to cope with such a dramatic imbalance between demand and financial resources available is to rethink the way healthcare systems are organised.
Telemedicine can be a trigger and an enabler for such a change but for in-depth changes to be implemented in practice there is a need to have the full support by those who have the responsibility of the healthcare budget and organisation.
The HEALTH OPTIMUM Consortium has adopted the motto “think big” to achieve its goal: the three participating regions - Veneto (Italy), Aragón (Spain) and Funen (Denmark) - were all represented at Regional Government level, i.e. by those who manage the healthcare budget and have authority and control on the organisation of healthcare in their region. The involvement of the Local and Regional Health Authorities was of significant importance for the pilots to test how to optimise their size, their workflows, the quality and the geographical distribution of their specialty teams on the basis of the expected needs of the population to assist rather than on the basis of physical proximity to citizens.
In Veneto, tele-counselling and tele-laboratory services have been implemented between healthcare centres in six local health authorities. Tele-counselling is used in neurosurgery while tele-laboratory is applied to homecare settings.
In Aragón, tele-counselling and virtual referral services have been implemented between the Barbastro Hospital and the Primary Care Centres of Castejón de Sos and Fraga for oncology, haematology and nephrology.
In Funen, tele-endocrinology and tele-cardiology services have been implemented between the SHF Funen Hospital, Svendborg and the SHF Aeroskobing Hospital, Aero. Tele-consultation between the hospitals is a way of redistributing workload between physicians and nurses.
The bet was won by the Consortium: the Market Validation phase has convincingly demonstrated through life size trials that the HEALTH OPTIMUM healthcare delivery model is sustainable in three different public health systems.
Among the major results of the HEALTH OPTIMUM project Veneto has increased the number of patients treated entirely at the hospital without a neurosurgical department by 430% and also reduced the time needed to obtain laboratory results from about 24 hours to less than 10 minutes, using tele-laboratory. In Funen, owing to the HEALTH OPTIMUM services, the doctors can save between 15 – 20 minutes per consultation and can thus have more patients in the day. In Aragon the waiting list in the Nephrology Department has been reduced from 34 to 25 days and for the Haematology Department from 52 to 14 days.
Visitors of the eTEN website have elected HEALTH OPTIMUM as the eTEN project of year 2005. By winning the election, HEALTH OPTIMUM was the eTEN project that communicated best about the e-Services it was validating.
The European Community eTEN programme (http://europa.eu.int/eten) is designed to accelerate the deployment of eServices with a trans-European dimension. eTEN has a budget of ~45M€ per year to the end of 2006 and supports two phases of eService preparation in the form of “market validation” and “initial deployment” projects. Projects address the thematic areas of: eGovernment, eHealth, eInclusion, eLearning, Trust and Security and services for SMEs.
Dr. Claudio Dario
HEALTH OPTIMUM Project
Coordinator - C.E.O. of Treviso Local Health Authority - Veneto Region