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TTeC 2004, Tromso
12 July 2004
The Norwegian Centre for Telemedicine once again hosted the Tromsoe Telemedicine and eHealth Conference (TTC 2004) on 20-23 June 2004. This symposium, which attracts speakers from all 5 continents, is an annual event, appropriately held in one of the most remote northern cities in Europe. Two experts from ESA Life Science Unit at ESTEC, also representing the TM-Alliance, gave talks on the first day presenting a Vision and the importance of Interoperability, and challenging the audience to come up with practical solutions to the problems of Data Privacy in eHealth.
A Vision for Citizen-Centred Healthcare
Ms Bescos presented the Vision of the TM Alliance that is centred on the Citizen rather than on healthcare providers, as is traditionally the case. The vision and roadmap presented, clearly illustrated how a citizen should become the focus of the healthcare system and be in a position to control his/her own destiny. Realizing this Vision is a major challenge: In the past, development of new technologies in healthcare involved small specific solutions, which were developed without sufficient consideration for the full business case across the eHealth market. The limitations of this bottom-up approach have become apparent by the dearth of commercially viable solutions that are sustainable without public subsidy.
Interoperability – a Key Impediment to Implementation
TTeC 2004, Tromso, C. Bescos
Moreover, without sufficient internationally accepted interoperability standards, industrial investment will, for the most part, remain limited to specific publicly subsidized projects, an approach that may be too slow for the current needs of European healthcare stakeholders faced with the challenges of computing and resource sharing. In order to unleash the vast potential of technological ingenuity and investment in research and development it is imperative that there is first consensus and convergence of parallel developments in eHealth infrastructure. In order to optimise eHealth services for the citizen across regional and national borders, while at the same time protecting the rights of the European citizens, this process necessitates facilitation at all levels and by all means. Bescos also expounded on the issue of Interoperability, which is a key impediment to implementation, be it technical, organisational, cultural, or political.
The Challenge: Guaranteeing Data Privacy
Dr. Kass challenged the audience to face the issue of Data Privacy in eHealth, and to find practical solutions quickly, so that this critical issue does not hamper progress towards realizing Citizen-Centred healthcare. Kass pointed out that simpler access to patient data and the growing use of communication technology lead to many conflicting challenges. Requirements for access to and sharing of information conflict with requirements for confidentiality and privacy protection.
TTeC 2004, Tromso, J. Kass
On the one hand, as much information as possible should be available to the patient, regular GP and specialist. On the other hand, security considerations dictate that as little sensitive data as possible should be stored and kept on file so that unauthorized parties can get hold of it. The requirement for guaranteed confidentiality and privacy protection does not harmonize with the need for availability, if one wishes to safeguard patients' rights.
The Need for Solutions that cross national and regional borders
However, they are not mutually exclusive, asserts Kass; moreover, because these issues stretch across almost the entire domain of the eSociety, wider solutions should also be considered. Kass also expounded on the challenges of cross-border healthcare, where national or regional differences further complicated and clouded the horizon. The importance of this issue to the Telemedicine community is underlined by the news article on this presentation on the conference website.
News on Dr. Kass presentation
Related linksTTeC 2005 Tromsø