ESA road map for telemedicine

June 24, 2004

Paris, 23 Jun 2004

How can space improve telemedicine and what do users need? These are some of the questions that will be discussed by telemedicine experts and policy makers at the Telemedicine via Satellite: the ESA Road Map Symposium, on 5 July at ESA's Space Research Institute, ESRIN in Italy.

Much has been done since the first symposium on Telemedicine via Satellite in the Information Society in May 2003. As a first step a multidisciplinary and multinational working group of medical professionals was set up to define the needs of eHealth and telemedicine, and to discuss the telecommunication services that such a system requires. Throughout its work the group has been carefully monitored to ensure that its aims concord with the objectives of the European Commission and the World Health Organisation, as well as other international bodies promoting eHealth and telemedicine.

To facilitate its task, the group was divided into eight thematic subgroups. Each of these was asked to analyse the needs and opportunities for using information and communications technology in a specific area of health care, and then to identify the specific role that satellite communications can play. The areas examined were:

  • interconnectivity for healthcare services: information exchange among healthcare centres and issues related to electronic health records
  • service for citizens: recent and future changes in the attitude of Europe's citizens towards information and communications technologies for health care
  • healthcare at home: the control and treatment of a patients' medical conditions within their own homes and communities
  • mobility: ensuring high standards of healthcare during travel, in areas that are difficult to reach and also for access to healthcare on transport systems such as planes, ships or ambulances
  • management of trauma, emergencies and disasters: provision of healthcare in the aftermath of natural or industrial disasters
  • early warning of environmental health risks: preventing or limiting the spread of diseases related to climatic or environmental changes
  • ehealth education: using information and communication technology to improve medical training among the medical profession as well as knowledge of health care among citizens
  • vision for eHealth and telemedicine via satellite: the future of health care and the shift from disease management to health preservation

Change of direction

The working group was set up under the umbrella of ESA's programme for telemedicine via satellite, a new programme that marks a shift in ESA's approach to telemedicine. Although much valuable work has been done since the launch of ESA's first telemedicine project in 1996, in 2003 ESA decided to complement initiatives mainly driven by industry and service operators, with those driven by demand.

Through its experience, ESA has learnt that involving end users and associated stakeholders from the very beginning can help to reduce the gap between the end of a pilot project and the beginning of a fully-fledged service. For this reason, at the end of the last symposium it was agreed to establish a multidisciplinary working group to include members of the medical profession.

The issues to be presented on 5 July should provoke lively debates. By listening to the views of those with a stake in improving health care ESA hopes to ensure that the medical profession makes the best use of the many services offered by telecommunication satellites to improve the health of Europe's citizens.

For more information on the Telemedicine via Satellite Symposium please contact:

ESA, Paris: Dominique Detain +33 1 53697726

ESTEC, Noordwijk: Francesco Feliciani +31 (0)71 5654109

ESRIN, Frascati: Simonetta Cheli +39 06 94180350

European Space Agency ml
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