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iNTER Support Action (International Network of Teleconsultation Excellence & Referral)

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Virtual consultation for better health care

It is common practice for doctors to consult on medical cases to reach the right diagnosis and ensure the best health care for their patients. However, in many developing regions, finding enough experts is a challenge. An EU-funded virtual network is continuing to help medical practitioners from Africa and Latin America to share their expertise.

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Second opinions and consultations among specialists are integral to the medical profession, helping avoid errors in diagnosis and treatment while facilitating the highest quality health care. However, in many parts of Africa and Latin America, accessing the knowledge of other experts in a given medical field, especially those fields related to rare diseases, is an enormous challenge. One solution is to go virtual, which is exactly what the 'iNTER Support Action (International Network of Teleconsultation Excellence and Referral)' (ISA) project set out to do. Financed by the Health theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the project established a dedicated web 2.0 platform to enable the exchange of medical images, videos and reports between specialists in Africa, Latin America and Europe. Following thorough technical and clinical validation, the ISA platform proved its effectiveness as a tool to improve medical decision making and health care in the two targeted regions. Medical practitioners who sign up for this free service can access the expertise of other professionals both within their own country and in other participating countries. In addition to its diagnostic power, ISA is being increasingly utilised as a valuable teaching resource, which should help improve the quality of health care across the network in the longer term. Although the project has ended, the ISA network continues to grow and deepen, proving concretely its usefulness and sustainability. The project partners hope the platform will continue to expand organically in new directions, including nursing and oncology.

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