The Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust has set aside funds to support the development of telemedicine for the Isle of Man, if health service workers believe it could improve patient care.
The Trustees have announced up to £60,000 is available to pay for a pilot project or provide other assistance to explore whether telemedicine could benefit the Island.
The Trust was established in 1888 and today funds equipment, training, research, education and health promotion to help improve the standard of healthcare in the Island, as well as the quality of life for sick, infirm and disabled people in hospital, care-settings or their own homes.
Clinicians and Department of Health and Social Care officers attended a presentation organised by the Trust at Keyll Darree Education and Training Centre to hear about the potential benefits of telemedicine. Afterwards they were asked to complete a short questionnaire, and the Trust will assess the results to see if there is a pilot project or other telemedicine trial which could be supported.
Telemedicine allows consultations to take place by online video link, as well as allowing clinicians to digitally share scans and results with experts in other countries for input. For a place like the Isle of Man, this could reduce the amount of off-Island trips made by patients to see UK-based consultants, as well as giving greater access to a wider range of expertise for diagnostic purposes.
There would also be more opportunities to develop professional skills through mentoring and knowledge sharing with colleagues off-Island.
While some Island health workers use aspects of telemedicine already, there is no Department-wide protocol and programme in place.
Trust Chairman Larry Keenan said: ‘The purpose of the presentation was to highlight some of the potential benefits telemedicine could offer the Isle of Man. The possibilities of using this technology here have been considered in the past, but there has never been enough forward momentum to deliver comprehensive facilities.
‘Following research in Ireland and the USA, and contact with experts in other countries, the Trust agreed telemedicine could offer real benefits in terms of improved patient care, reductions in costs and enhanced opportunities for medical professionals to develop their knowledge and skills by drawing on the expertise and experience of colleagues all over the world.
‘We have the belief telemedicine could benefit the Island, and have set aside a significant sum to fund some initial work. However, it is those involved in delivering the Island’s healthcare, administratively and on the front line, who know best how these funds could be best utilised. That is why at the end of the presentation we asked everyone to take questionnaires to be completed by themselves and colleagues who were unable to attend.
‘The Trust will consider the feedback and if a project we could support is identified, will work with the DHSC to achieve that.’
The hope is that a pilot project would clearly demonstrate whether telemedicine would work for the Island and lead to the introduction of a comprehensive facility.
The presentation heard from surgeon Andrew Watson, who is Medical Director of Telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre. Via a live link from Pittsburgh, he explained UPMC runs 22 hospitals including many across the largely rural state of Pennsylvania. Andrew said telemedicine had been used to prevent patients making unnecessary long journeys for consultations which have instead been carried out by video link, reducing inconvenience and cost.
He explained how telemedicine had been used to draw on the expertise of doctors in other countries, as well as sharing UPMC’s knowledge and skills with colleagues in Ireland, India, China, Italy and Russia. Looking at the Isle of Man, Andrew said effective use of telemedicine could result in less travel for patients, more services staying on-Island, improved chronic disease management, safer transitional care and enhanced surgical mentoring.
The presentation then heard from Ulf Hertin of RxEye, a Swedish company which provides secure communications network and web-based collaboration platform developed specifically for diagnostic imaging and virtual team-working in healthcare.
Again via video link, he reinforced the potential benefits with examples of improvements seen by users of their systems, and also gave a demonstration of how the system could work for the Island, including the sharing of scan films digitally with specialist centres of excellent in the UK.
Mr Keenan said: ‘These are just two of the organisations involved in providing telemedicine solutions, which were willing to join our presentation to explain how it could work here. Deciding who to work with is not the priority now; the priority is hearing directly from the healthcare staff whether they think telemedicine could be beneficial, and how the funds we have set aside could be used to test the potential.’
The Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust relies on donations and bequests from the public. If you would like to support the Trust, visit the website www.hbnhealthcaretrust.org.im, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 616108.