Within the Telematics Applications Programme, the European Commission in June 1995 approved a funding of 3.000.000 ECUs in favour of the NIVEMES project, which stands for Network of Integrated Vertical Medical Services Targeting Ship Vessels and Remote Populations. This three years' project started out in January 1996 to develop an international network of telemedicine health care providers and telemedicine services, offered to individuals or groups in remote locations or emergency situations such as sailors and islanders. Prime contractor, the Greek technology provider ATKOSoft SA, is working together in a consortium with hospital partners from Sweden, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.
The NIVEMES partners plan to build a very broad framework consisting of medical institutions connected via communication links in a coherent network. Some of the health care services they have in mind, do not even exist at the present moment, others will be seriously enhanced. The technological applications have to be widely available in order to integrate them and to make them compatible. Radical improvement of relevant services therefore is rather based upon implementation of existing technologies than upon innovation.
The participating medical institutions will rely on a core of network integrated support functions and applications and initially will concentrate themselves on mobile user groups like the maritime industry and on remote site population from isolated small islands. For the sailing crew, there will be a Compact NIVEMES Ship Node on board of the ship vessel with a user-friendly interface operated by officers that have passed an elementary training course. A satellite transmission sends the original medical data to a mainland medical institution, selected according to logical criteria such as nearness or language.
This institution carries the responsibility for the whole of the telemedical action. Patient relevant data are retrieved from the database of possibly another NIVEMES medical institution. After a teleconsultation session between the two institutions, the necessary telemedicine services are provided. As for the help to people of remote islands, this may take the form of regular check-ups, diagnostic evaluations, scheduled services, which otherwise are covered by mobile health service units, or emergency interventions. According to these specifications, the size, equipment and personnel of the medical centre are being adapted.
In the future, almost any remote and isolated location will benefit from the services of the NIVEMES network, such as for example oil rigs, rural areas or near arctic regions. The partners also are referring to emergency and disaster situations in which the usual telecommunication lines are not functioning anymore, just when the need for mobility of the medical rescue teams is urgent. Both broader and deeper perspectives are equally being envisaged. This means more health care services from the same network to the same users and at the same time, diversification of the user groups that require similar services through an extended network.
The NIVEMES consortium is composed out of medical organisations, public authorities, telemedicine service providers, international companies with large high-tech experience and IT providers that are specialised in the health telematics. The actively participating partners were selected from six European countries, namely Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Detailed on-line information about the project's development is presented by the prime contractor ATKOSoft SA.