Telemedicine has the potential to completely change how healthcare is delivered around the world. From its initial use of providing medical care to military personnel, space explorers, and civilians living in remote areas, telemedicine has developed to the point where its use may become ubiquitous. What has made that possible are concurrent advances and price reductions in telecommunications, computer, and medical equipment, technology. Medical trade shows and exhibitions are filled with all types of imaging equipment, patient monitoring devices, computers, and software. Each has the potential to help the hospital, clinic or individual practitioner provide better, faster and less expensive medical care to their patients. Already, telemedicine devices such as personal fitness trackers and Bluetooth-enabled scales are available in any consumer electronics store or webpage catalogue. What a cornucopia of choices!
Two years ago, members of the Organizing Committee thought about this and asked, “what are the implications of using telemedicine to improve health security in Southeast Europe?” As they talked, they realized that technology was the easiest problem to solve. Health security is dependent on a host of other factors such as individual government policies and regulations, financing, management systems, the collection, analysis and use and protection of data, and coordination of care to prevent duplication of efforts. Unfortunately, there were no venues at that time bringing people from widely varying sectors of the telemedicine community together with NATO Member and Partner countries to share information and develop solutions to these issues. The NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme Advanced Research Workshop, Benchmarking Telemedicine: Improving Health Security in the Balkans, was developed to be that venue.
Participants were representatives of, or responsible for, implementing telemedicine within the context of their positions in the military or civilian governmental structure, or as healthcare, educational, medical equipment or ICT/telecommunications providers and integrators. The emphasis for our workshop was information sharing since too often, information is siloed, either within a country or telemedicine subsector.
The Workshop included speakers, panel discussions, demonstrations of telemedicine technology, and real-time web-casting and social media. Using telecommunications media, our Forum expanded the numbers of people who could join the discussion or receive information immediately as it was being shared in the Workshop, or by downloading the stored online discussions.
Panels addressed significant issues such as cyber security for the implementation of telemedicine; healthcare capabilities of deployed and local medical equipment; learning methods; information sharing among local professionals; prevention and control of infectious diseases; best practices of telemedicine among NATO member and partner countries; integration of telemedicine across regions and borders; telemedicine implementation. In addition, the workshop included demonstrations of new technology for telemedicine that addresses NATO concerns.
The Workshop presented a single forum of discussion; all attendees could attend all panels as there were no concurrent panels or seminars. This was designed to increase communication across the different telemedicine sectors and give attendees a common framework, with a common language, with which to discuss issues. The publication of these Proceedings will allow others to become part of the conversation.
Carla Sydney STONE
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.
31 July 2017