Spanish teleconsultation pilot in Extremadura shows great promise for future expansion

Olivenza 30 May 2002On April 12, 2002, a Grand Opening Celebration in Extremadura, Spain was organised to publicly acknowledge the profound success of a telemedicine pilot. Participants in the celebration included political, business, and health care leaders from the region of Extremadura, invited leaders throughout Europe, and members of the community and local health care system. The Provincial Hospital San Sebastian of Badajoz, ViTel Net, and Videomed sponsored the telemedicine pilot. Teleconsultations in dermatology, cardiology, radiology and vascular surgery are being conducted between the Health Center of Olivenza and the Provincial Hospital San Sebastian.

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ViTel Net provided the telemedicine systems, including its new MedVizer multi-modality consultation workstation. ViTel Net also dedicated technical and project management staff to support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of this initiative. "Telemedicine improves access to the specialist, reduces waiting lists, helps to use the available human resources in a rational manner and improves the satisfaction of professionals in primary and speciality levels, as well as the patients who are treated", concluded Dr. Patricia Benito, telemedicine pilot co-ordinator.

In the months of February and March 2002, there were 187 telemedicine consults. The average waiting time for a patient to be seen by a specialist dropped dramatically from a range of 8-26 weeks in the pre-pilot period, to a maximum time of one week during the pilot, and the number of transfers was also significantly reduced. "With telemedicine, we now have an opportunity to discuss the details of a patient's treatment in real time. This has improved the relationships between the health provider levels and results in the patient only going to the hospital in those cases where a specific test or treatment is required", explained Claudio Pelaez of the Health Center of Olivenza.

Guillermo Fernandez, Minister of Health of Extremadura, is convinced of the benefits of telemedicine. "Telemedicine is not a luxury, it is a necessity", stated Minister Fernandez. "Sixty-eight percent of the population in Extremadura lives in regions without hospitals, and we are dependent on hospitals in our health system. The tools we have used until now are not going to serve us in the future. The new technologies are a necessity in order to optimise the resources", continued Minister Fernandez.

The Extremadura Minister announced plans to expand the current telemedicine pilot to include additional speciality services. Mr. Fernandez stated that the objective for 2003 is to establish telemedicine capability in each region. The pilot programme in Olivenza, Badajoz serves as a model for the entire region. "ViTel Net is pleased to be a part of this effort", stated Allen Izadpanah, President and CEO of ViTel Net. "The pilot introduced the health professionals in Badajoz to the potential of telemedicine. The people of Extremadura have recognised the many benefits telemedicine has to offer."

ViTel Net's MedVizer Multimodality Imaging Center allows a radiologist to view the entire array of study types or modalities from a single workstation, eliminating the need to walk from workstation to workstation to complete the work of the day. A video-conferencing capability for live review of ultrasound studies is an optional feature. Demonstrating the capability of the MedVizer suite of products to create, access, and update information throughout the entire health care system illustrates ViTel Net's commitment to provide real solutions for its customers, enabling the telemedicine industry to evolve from pilot projects to integrated operational initiatives.


Leslie Versweyveld

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