Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room is not most people’s idea of fun, so a recent conference in Bruges, Belgium, on Delivering eHealth across Europe, has good news for Europeans - visiting a doctor’s surgery may become a rare event.
Present at the 3rd Annual Conference of the European Health Telematics Association were representatives of the European Union, the International Telecommunications Union and ESA. These organisations, together with the World Health Organisation, make up the Telemedicine Alliance, an 18-month European project to examine the use of eHealth: health care that makes use of electronic means of telecommunication such as phones, television, computers and satellites.
Satellites and the European Space Agency may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of improving health, yet there are many ways in which ESA and its programmes contribute to improving health care.
- In emergency situations or in remote areas satellites are used to transmit images and information on the sick or injured to medical specialists thus allowing them to advise local medics on treatment or even guide them through an operation.
- Through its Human Spaceflight Programme ESA monitors the health of astronauts in space, and uses the unique opportunities offered by the absence of gravity to carry out medical research.
- ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme encourages the adaptation of space technology for other uses, many of which are medical. For instance space technology is used in heart operations, in dentistry, to detect melanomas and in many areas of medical research.