HEAL SA has centred on a joint EU/South Africa user type, diffusion conference (Johannesburg, May 1996) to see how telematics may alleviate complex health problems in South Africa, including difficulties faced by the elderly and disabled. Since specialised healthcare is concentrated in urban areas, an improved access to these services via the vehicle of telemedicine could make a major impact on improving equity and quality of healthcare. The conference provided also a forum for discussion and exhibition of telematics products and services. It should be an important first milestone in the context of an emerging and mutually beneficial collaboration.
A joint European Union/South Africa diffusion conference on Telematics for Health will be held in South Africa between 18 and 20 April 1996, near Johannesburg. This will examine the manner in which "state of the art" telematics (telecommunication and information technologies) can provide solutions to the complex health problems of South Africa and of the region and improve the quality of life of disabled and elderly people. The key to rational health service provision at district, provincial and national levels is ready access to reliable data. Thus the creation of a national health information system is one of the highest priorities of the South African Department of Health. The socio-economic integration and independent living of disabled and elderly persons through the use of appropriate technology is also an important objective. The conference, with an expected attendance of 200 people from numerous European and African countries, provides a vehicle for a productive exchange of experiences between Europe and South Africa on matters ranging from standardised and integrated electronic patient health care records through to harmonisation of data in regional and national networks and enabling technologies.
The objectives are also to provide an opportunity for participants to disseminate, exhibit, discuss and present their health telematics products and services as well as their telematics solutions for the integration of disabled and elderly people to users in Southern Africa. As such it will concentrate on the range of telemedicine applications which can be deployed by health planners, health managers, clinical service providers and health and rehabilitation professionals in otherwise inaccessible areas. Participants from Europe, Africa and South Africa will have the occasion to inform health planners and decision makers, identify market potential, exploit commercial opportunities and find potential industrial collaborators or research partners.
The conference will promote the dissemination of telematics expertise and technology through the health sector and disabled and elderly sector in South Africa. This will give added impetus to a key sector which the European Union supports through its "European Programme for Reconstruction and Development in South Africa" and in its policies on regional cooperation in Southern Africa.