Present appraisal of WWW tools and first open call for further tools for telematics in healthcare

Jean-Claude Healy
European Commission, DG XIII.C.4
Brussels, Belgium

Since more than ten years, the European Union has identified the Health Sector as a key sector for the application of Telematics and has promoted a lot of initiatives roughly merged around the previously so-called Advanced Informatics in Medicine Programme (AIM).

In the context of the present 4th Framework Programme (1994-99), a Telematics Applications Programme has been implemented. This programme is subdivided in subprogrammes on Education, Transport, Urban and Rural Areas; Research, Administration and Healthcare. The new culture of this programme, compared to the previous one, is multimedia and user-oriented. For the preparation of the Telematics Applications for Health sub-programme, a group of European healthcare experts has identified 5 main areas and a workplan has been elaborated. It concerns: Multimedia medical records, telematics for health professionals, telemedicine, telematics for the citizens and specific support issues. After the 15 December 1994 call, we received more than 260 proposals and 70 have been selected for funding. The contracts are now under negotiation and the first projects will start in December 1995 for a 2,3 or 4 years period. According to the workplan, these projects are clustered in 7 groups of ten projects each, and each group is in charge of the various target populations (healthcare professionals, healthcare managers, healthcare authorities, citizens etc.). For each target some specific indicators are developed, in terms of product, market, usefulness and cost/benefits etc. The 1995 situation of these indicators is requested and the future envisaged.

In close connection with the R&D initiatives, the EU has received the mandate from the G7 Ministerial Conference held in Brussels in February this year, to co-ordinate the health G7 initiatives for the promotion of the Global Information Society. Six sub-projects have been selected for feasibility studies on public health, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, telemedicine, enabling mechanisms and data cards. Each sub-project is promoted by a specific state or by the EU. The main global conference is planned in December of this year.

We can now develop some analysis of these basic elements:

A lot of services are the computerised translation of the previous written document and don't use the new paradigm of the interactivity and so, the real interest of the on-line networks. It would be good to remember some conclusions described ten years ago when in France the X25 system, Minitel, had been promoted at national level. Two variables are of key importance: one is the lifetime of the information, the other being the personalization of the message. The real interest of the various multimedia tools is in connection with these elements.

As a conclusion, you can say: really the time has come now for a real industry of medical informatics. I am sure that the today meeting will be a step for this purpose.


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