Facing an increasingly ageing population, Europe must develop new solutions for providing quality healthcare services using fewer resources. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made this challenge all the more urgent, it has also put the spotlight on a possible solution: telemedicine. Although the need for social distancing has accelerated the uptake of telemedicine, the concept is not unique to the pandemic. In fact, the EU-funded projects THALEA and THALEA II (Telemonitoring and Telemedicine for Hospitals Assisted by ICT for Life saving co-morbid patients in Europe as part of a Patient personalised care program of the EU) have been working on developing effective telemedicine systems for years. “The aim of both projects was to develop a manufacturer-independent, interoperable software solution for intensive care telemedicine,” says Gernot Marx, THALEA II project coordinator. “Such solutions will enable ICUs to detect complications quicker, which in turn will result in a better quality of life for intensive care patients and – most importantly – more lives being saved.” The focus of the THALEA II project is to push these telemedicine systems to market using public procurement of innovative solutions (PPI). According to Marx, PPI is what happens when the public sector uses its purchasing power to act as an early adopter of the innovative solutions developed during pre-commercial procurement (PCP), the focus of the THALEA project. “PPI shortens the route to market, allowing early adopters to implement an innovation and enabling public procurers to efficiently answer market demand with innovative products,” adds Marx.
An innovative telemedicine system
During the project, researchers developed a telemedicine technology aimed at supporting ICU specialists in their day-to-day routines. “The technology serves as an intermediary between specialists located in the ICU and those located at a telemedicine centre,” explains Marx. “By sharing patient data and parameters via the THALEA system, this team can identify critical situations faster and adapt treatment more efficiently.” The innovative THALEA system was prepared for marketisation during the THALEA II project. After successfully getting the THALEA system certified, THALEA II researchers turned to securing buyers. “These buyers will purchase a highly innovative, telemedical software solution – which is a huge success for both the project and the European Commission,” notes Marx.
Responding to the COVID crisis
Most recently, the project published a call for tenders, which was followed by an extremely important purchasing of the product by Aachen University Hospital in Germany. The system has now been deployed at 18 hospitals across Austria and Germany, where it is already being used to help ICUs treat COVID-19 patients. In light of the pandemic, medical and IT specialists are currently working at full speed and with all the necessary resources to install the THALEA systems, not only in Austria and Germany, but also across Europe. “The pandemic has given this work a sense of urgency, as our telemedicine system is well-positioned to provide specialised, effective care and treatment to a large number of ICUs,” concludes Marx. “I am happy to say that we successfully responded to this urgency and have delivered ICUs with an effective, tailored way to provide the best care to their patients.”
THALEA II, THALEA, telemedicine, public procurement of innovativesolutions, PPI, Intensive Care Units, ICU, healthcare, pre-commercialprocurement, PCP, intensive care, COVID-19, pandemic