International experts shaping how distance technology will deliver health services in our homes and communities in the future are converging in the Scottish Highlands this week.
Whether it's vital monitoring equipment, improved procedures for handling patient information or new ways of encouraging people to live healthier lives, technology is a major focus for health professionals who want to improve services to the public.
Device and software developers; technology businesses like IBM and Honeywell; communications experts including O2 and Vodaphone; and health care specialists will all be represented at the Telehealthcare Summit in Inverness.
The two day event which begins on Wednesday has been organised by Scottish Government development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with input from the Scottish Scientific Advisory Council, the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and the government's joint improvement team.
“We will be asking what our health care specialists want telehealth to be able to provide by the year 2020, and how the private and public sector can work together to achieve it,” said Dr Steven Dodsworth of HIE.
“Scotland is one of the leading nations for developing telehealth and we see a real opportunity for the Highlands and Islands to build on the strong foundations we already have here. As a development agency we are ambitious to realise the benefits our communities and economy will see from growing telehealth products and services,” he added.
Telehealth technologies, everything from electronic equipment to iPhone Apps, can be used to support prevention, promotion and curative aspects of care. It can be particularly beneficial in making life easier for those with long term conditions or where distance, either to traditional or specialist care, is an issue.
NHS 24 Medical Director, Dr George Crooks, said: “The Scottish Centre for telehealth, which became integrated with NHS 24 earlier this year, has already delivered a number of innovative pilot projects that use tele-conferencing, tele-consultation and image transfer to support remote delivery of services.
“Embracing new technology and using this to improve patient access to health care, no matter where they live, is vital. NHS 24 and SCT are committed to improving patient care and to providing a high quality service for people across Scotland. By bringing together all those involved in telehealth, both in the private and public sector, we can work together to ensure the benefits of new technology become embedded across the NHS and beyond in Scotland by 2020.”
HIE's role is to develop sustainable economic growth across the region. To achieve this it creates infrastructure for future investment, assists large and small businesses with growth aspirations and has a unique role strengthening communities, particularly in fragile areas.
HIE supports the growth ambitions of business and social enterprise clients by creating close working relationships in order to accelerate growth in turnover, profitability, wage levels, exports and therefore Gross Value Added (GVA) in the HIE area.
HIE also invests in transformational projects across the region to make the Highlands and Islands a more competitive and attractive place to live, work, study and grow.
The region covered by HIE takes in more than half of Scotland, and is home to around 440,000 people. See www.hie.co.uk for more information.