|International Telecommunication Union
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First World Telemedicine Symposium to be Held
Geneva, 11 April 1997 — The first World Telemedicine Symposium for
developing countries is to be held at the Hotel Estoril Sol, near Lisbon,
Portugal, from 30 June to 4 July 1997. The symposium is an ITU initiative,
hosted by the Portuguese Telecommunications Administration through the Instituto
das Comunicações de Portugal (ICP).The World Symposium will look at the
potential of this technology to improve medical care for people living in rural
and remote areas of developing countries.
'Telemedicine' refers to the provision of medical services and health care
via telecommunications-based systems. The range of such services is very wide,
and includes medical consultation, pathology diagnosis, education and emergency
A community telemedicine centre located in a village could help with the
diagnosis and treatment of ailments without the need for the presence of a
physician 'on-site'. Villagers would instead be able to 'dial-a-doctor',
establishing a link whereby a physician located in another town or even another
country could prescribe a course of action or treatment which could be dispensed
by local nurses. Such systems, which are being made possible today through
breakthrough developments in telecommunications, image compression and
computing, offer real hope to areas which, for economic or geographical reasons,
do not have access to adequate medical care.
The new Symposium was announced by the Director of the International
Telecommunication Union's Telecommunication Development Bureau, Mr Ahmed
Laouyane. "The Symposium responds to Recommendations of the ITU's Regional
Telecommunication Development Conferences in Abidjan and Beirut," said Mr
Laouyane, adding that he hoped to involve other organizations, such as the
European Commission and the World Health Organization, in the event.
The Symposium will look at the ways telemedicine can deliver socio-economic
benefits to communities, including:
- improved health care for a greater proportion of a country's population,
especially those in rural areas;
- a reduction in the need to transport patients from rural to urban
hospitals or even outside the country;
- the provision of a means of consultation between health-care professionals
in rural clinics and specialists in urban hospitals; and
- access to medical databases by remote health-care professionals so that
they can keep up to date with developments in the field.
In addition, telemedicine has the potential to offer a number of indirect
benefits to a country, such as development of a value-added service for delivery
by telecom operators.
Telemedicine is already under consideration by the ITU Telecommunication
Development Sector's Study Group 2. This Group, which includes representatives
from more than 20 countries as well as from organizations including Inmarsat,
the French Ministry of Health, the European Commission, and the World Health
Organization, is currently preparing a draft report to be presented to the
Symposium which will include the capabilities of major service providers of
telemedicine services. Two large-scale trials of telemedicine technology
involving the European Commission and other G-7 institutions were recommended in
a Resolution taken at the ITU's African Regional Telecommunication Development
Conference held in Abidjan in May of last year. While there remains, as yet, no
date set for these trials, it is hoped they will go ahead as soon as funding is
"Trials are needed to evaluate the most effective ways of delivering
telemedicine services in the developing world, as well as to evaluate which
services and technologies would be most appropriate," Mr Laouyane said.
"I hope that the Symposium in Portugal will provide an opportunity for
developing and developed countries to share their experience of telemedecine and
will contribute to progress on the development of global standards for
telemedicine," he concluded.
For further information please contact: Mr Leonid
Development Bureau, ITU, tel: +41 22 730 5433 fax: +41 22 730 5484.