One of the biggest challenges facing Europe today is how to provide an increasingly ageing population with quality healthcare services using fewer resources. Specifically, due to a shortage of healthcare providers, there is an urgent need for innovative solutions capable of filling in this service gap. One such solution is telemedicine – which is the focus of the EU-funded THALEA projects. The original THALEA project used pre-commercial procurement (PCP) to develop a telemedicine system for improving an ICU's ability to treat patients with acutely life-threatening conditions. In THALEA II, researchers are working to push these telemedicine systems to market using public procurement of innovative solutions (PPI). “The aim is to develop a manufacturer-independent, interoperable software solution for intensive care telemedicine,” explains 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.”
An innovative telemedicine system
The EU has two important supported innovation tools, namely PPI Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI) and Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP). During the THALEA projects PCP phase, researchers developed a telemedicine technology to support 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. “By sharing patient data and parameters via the THALEA system, this team can identify critical situations faster and adapt treatment more efficiently,” adds Marx.
The innovative THALEA system is being prepared for marketisation during the THALEA II project, which has the distinction of being the first PPI project in Europe emanating from a former PCP project. After successfully getting the THALEA system certified, THALEA II researchers turned to securing buyers. Despite financial issues with several proposed buyers, the project successfully secured two buyers. “These buyers will purchase a highly innovative, telemedical software solution – a huge success for both the project and the European Commission,” says Marx. THALEA II is currently in the process of publishing a call for tender, which will be followed by the purchasing of the product. By early 2020, the system will be deployed at Aachen University Hospital and 17 other hospitals within the TELnet@NRW network. “The vision of THALEA was to use technology in a very efficient and tailored way to provide the best care for our patients,” says Marx. “After the project officially ends, this will no longer be just a vision but a reality in the day-to-day practice in German ICUs.”
THALEA II, THALEA, telemedicine, public procurement of innovative solutions, PPI, Intensive Care Units, ICU, healthcare, pre-commercial procurement, PCP, intensive care