Telemedicine via Satellite in the Information Society

The European Space Agency is organising a telemedicine symposium, ‘Telemedicine via Satellite in the Information Society’, to be held at ESRIN, Frascati, Italy, on 23 and 24 May 2003.

This Symposium, which will bring together information and communications technology specialists and health professionals, aims to review the current status of satellite-based telemedicine services and technologies and identify common requirements of direct relevance to future satellite telemedicine services. During the two-day event, guidelines for defining future programmes for further development and promotion of telemedicine via satellite will also be identified

Telemedicine depends on effective transfer of medical information through the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs). The expansion of telemedicine will be built on improvements in the availability, quality and speed of information transfer.

In order to improve the take-up and effectiveness of telemedicine, advanced ICT infrastructures are needed to provide access to suitable services in any given location.

Satellite communications, being accessible from virtually any location and quickly adaptable to specific needs, has great potential for the development of telemedicine.

Since the mid-1990s, a number of activities have been initiated in Europe by national and international organisations with the purpose of demonstrating and promoting the use of satcom in the field of telemedicine.

Through such projects it has been possible to demonstrate the technical feasibility of several satellite-based telemedicine systems, and to raise awareness among potential users.

Use of satellite-based ICTs for telemedicine is progressing from the exploratory phase towards a more operational profile, in which integration into existing health care systems and early attainment of self-sustainability are essential.

The following aspects of telemedicine will be covered during the Symposium, each with a dedicated Working Group:

· Telemedicine for elderly people
· Telemedicine for disaster relief and emergency applications
· Telemedicine for hospitals in remote areas
· Teleconsulting, second opinion and regulatory aspects
· Telemedicine, medical education and clinical research
· Telemedicine technology development in satcom.