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Guest Blog: Malcolm Fisk on the European Code of Practice for Telehealth Services

 

Guest Blog: Malcolm Fisk on the European Code of Practice for Telehealth Services

The political imperative to reform the way in which health and care services are provided is now well recognised. What is not sufficiently recognised, however, is the extent to which telecommunications technologies can now help us to develop and provide our services in ways that make that reform achievable.

EU Code

Important in this process is the arrival of the European Code of Practice for Telehealth Services (the Code). The Code, first released in May, sets a direction for service reforms that are specific to ‘telehealth’. Telehealth services are defined by the Code as offering the means by which technologies and related services concerned with health and well-being are accessed by people or provided for them, at a distance’.

This radical definition immediately moves us away from ideas around top-down ‘treatment’ of ‘patients’ towards wider concerns about the lifestyles and behaviours of ‘people’. The clinical health perspectives that have typically driven many telehealth services (through e.g. vital signs monitoring) are, therefore, being complemented by those (through e.g. telecare) that operate more in the arena of public and preventative health. Crucially the definition pitches us into a world where strategic policy and practice initiatives need to respond more effectively to people’s needs - complemented by approaches that seek rapid advances in health literacy and the promotion, for most, of self-management.

More detail of the Code, and the process by which services can be registered and progress towards accreditation, is available on the website (www.telehealthcode.eu). This notes that the team that developed the Code, led by Dr Malcolm Fisk at Coventry University’s Health Design & Technology Institute, is establishing a new organisation to take the Code forward. They are working with DNV GL The political imperative to reform the way in which health and care services are provided is now well recognised. What is not sufficiently recognised, however, is the extent to which telecommunications technologies can now help us to develop and provide our services in ways that make that reform achievable. (http://dnvglhealthcare.com) an international assessment and accreditation body.

DNVGL

Immediately of note is the attention given in the Code to ethical approaches and to the way in which services are required to handle and safeguard personal data.  The coverage of such matters clearly helped generate attention from service providers who used ‘Simple Telehealth’ in the guise of the ‘Flo’ (Florence) the personal, self monitoring and alerting tool that is based on text messaging to mobile phones.

Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that the first service accredited to the Code, the East London NHS Foundation Trust – see - www.eastlondon.nhs.uk/News-Events/News/Newham-Telehealth-Service-First-in-Europe-to-Receive-European-Accreditation.aspx uses ‘Flo’ as part of its telehealth portfolio of services. Both Richard Stubbs of that service and Phil O’Connell (Global Lead for Simple Telehealth) had, in fact, an input that helped ensure that the Code embodied sufficient flexibility to accommodate services where mobile devices were being used. Of the Code, Phil observed it as apractical and pragmatic embodiment of common sense which puts the interests of patients and service users ahead of the interests of equipment suppliers’ and pointed to its potential in helping the process of reform in an ‘exciting and innovative environment in which best practice based services will flourish.’

Many others – both from UK and wider EU institutions have expressed their support for the Code and the effort that went into its development now appears to be paying dividends. Since the announcement of the first registration there have been, for instance, eight new registrations of telehealth services - operating in four EU countries. These are all expected to go forward to becoming accredited and helping in setting that new quality benchmark and helping in the process of health reforms – in the UK and beyond.

Further information is available through Coventry University or DNV GL

« Dawn Pattison – dpattison@cad.coventry.ac.uk

« Dr Malcolm Fisk – mfisk@cad.coventry.ac.uk

« Nicola Malbon – nicola.malbon@dnvgl.com