Challenges in updating diabetes care
The Monitor seminar arranged by Turku Science Park Ltd, Turku University of Applied Sciences and the University of Turku this year focused on health care innovations for the eighth time. One of the presentations introduced the use of eHealth applications in diabetes care. Senior Lecturer Teppo Saarenpää examined the issue mainly on the basis of the experiences accumulated so far in the eMedic project.
The eMedic project aims at developing the applications of telemedicine in the self-care of diabetic patients, wound care and paediatric diseases. The project is part of the EU’s Interreg IV A programme and will continue until the end of 2013. There are six partners from four Baltic Sea countries. The Finnish partners are Turku University of Applied Sciences, Turku Science Park Ltd, and the Hospital District of Southwest Finland. Estonia is represented by the Tallinn University of Technology, Sweden by Karolinska University Hospital, and Latvia by Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital. In the Monitori seminar eMedic was introduced by Senior Lecturer Teppo Saarenpää from the Turku University of Applied Sciences.
“Our goal is to create practices which take into account the point of view of both customers and personnel. We aim at finding a high-quality and cost-efficient virtual service model to support home care and self-care which will be consistent in all four countries. A uniform model will make it easier to put the system into practice and train the social and health care personnel”, Mr Saarenpää says.
Pilots in three municipalities
The new practices are being developed in three pilot municipalities in Finland: Kaarina, Loimaa and Forssa. The results of the project will also be used in the study of eHealth solutions.
There are two different pilot projects: self-care of diabetic patients, and virtual consultation of wound care. In the self-care pilot there is a blood pressure gauge and blood sugar meter at the patient’s home, the patient enters the readings to his/her mobile phone, and the data are transmitted via 3G connection to the database. The patients can view their own details and give acccess rights to a health care professional.
In virtual consultation of wound care the home nurse can, for example, photograph a wound in a diabetic patient’s foot with a tablet and send the picture to the health centre using the computer’s internet connection. If necessary, the physician can negotiate with a specialist or the nurse using the videoconferencing feature.
Time for preparations
The project commenced at the beginning of 2011, and the first six months were spent on plans for purchasing. During that period, the current processes and flow of information and the available services and equipment were mapped; no new equipment was developed. Furthermore, a request for offer was determined and drawn up. Localisation, translations, commenting and finding a consensus took a lot of time. The next phase involved competitive bidding, opening of the request for offer, demonstrations and decisions.
”Since last autumn the partners have been ordering packages, equipment has been installed, personnel has been trained, and servicing and help desk functions have been organised. The programs have been tested in practice, and small updates have been made. Training plays a major role, because it’s important that the use of the program goes smoothly”, Teppo Saarenpää says.
Some pilots are now underway and others will start soon. The project will continue until the end of 2013.
”So far we have learned that we really need to reserve time for negotiations between all the parties. It can’t be emphasised too much when there are four nationalities and four languages involved, the different practices of four countries and a number of related parties: equipment suppliers, health care professionals, and patients. All groups have to be committed to the common goals. The legal affairs also take time, because there are a number of health care regulations that vary from country to country”, Teppo Saarenpää says.
The Monitori seminar was part of the Turku ICT Week.
Text and photos: Anne Kortela