The European Health Telematics Observatory or knowledge as a creating power to act

Brussels, 22 September 97 In 1996, the strongly felt needs for a sound information and knowledge base in the health telematics sector were given concrete form in the foundation of the European Health Telematics Observatory (EHTO). A few years earlier, the AIM (Advanced Informatics in Medicine) Community had already taken under its wings the various projects dealing with the new ideas, evolutions and research concerning the development of health telematics and telemedicine. On the other hand, the European Commission expressed her desire for a general vision on the information technology infrastructure towards the 21st century in three major documents, namely the Delors White Book, the Bangemann Report and the Green Paper. It is in this light that the present activities of the EHTO should be considered.

The main function of the EHTO is information handling as a service to the health telematics sector. Their aim is to collect and analyse news items, to turn the material into a digestible form and disseminate it in a user-friendly way to the involved public, composed out of health professionals, health policy-makers, the European industry and other parties that may become interested in the near future. The EHTO's final goal can be described as an ambition to bring structure into the overwhelming interaction between product evaluation, project analysis, strategic market and innovation watch and growing implementation in the telematics field.

Tools and control

To accomplish its information mission, the EHTO organisation has created a detailed web site on the Internet which guarantees the use of uniform and internationally accepted protocols. Different means of approach are used such as regular reports on recent evolutions; a demonstration site showing prototypes and products; the provision of an information Help Desk and a reception desk for visitors; the creation of user groups; a horizontal electronic forum for transversal exchanges; conferences and workshops as well as a journal published quarterly by the Integrated Health Care Limited in Dublin.

The EHTO people also believe in the feed back principle so they have constituted three groups to check whether the offered information corresponds with the needs of the system users. This control unit is a truthful reflection of the user parties as we plainly are able to observe in the representation of the health professions, the health policy and the industry.

Information typology

It is possible to distinguish between five types of information delivered by the EHTO web site. First of all, health telematics project results from the Third and Fourth Framework Programmes are handled and evaluated. Next, the horizontal actions including specific expertise in specialised areas are to be treated as well as the progress in other related commission programmes linked to the telematics field. Finally, a status quo has to be given on the health telematics situation in the different European countries as well as on the standardisation in order to create bodies presenting compatible solutions.

External support

In order to be successful, the EHTO is counting on the support and stimulation by the Commission to make the project managers in health telematics familiar with the existence of the Observatory. Sponsorship from the European industry is a second, almost inevitable factor for efficient functioning and last but not least, the Health Ministries play an important role in the establishment of a clear profile for the EHTO organisation.

Check in at the EHTO web site for more information.

Leslie Versweyveld