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“All tumor conference participants have access to the same data“

“All tumor conference participants have access to the same data“

Photo: Young man with glasses

In video conferences physicians can get together to discuss individual cases for example and to prepare new treatment plans. This way, physicians and patients save time. spoke with Christian Hess, Medical Director of the Asklepios Future Hospital Program and Jörg Focke, spokesperson for the Asklepios Future Hospital Corporate IT Division about how these so-called tumor conferences work. How did your clinic decide to use video conferences in the treatment of breast cancer?

Christian Hess: The reasons for the introduction of this technology are complex and have to be viewed against the backdrop of the Asklepios IT strategy. In 2005, Asklepios has founded a large homogenization project titled OneIT for its clinics and facilities. After the nationwide introduction of OneIT, other services were defined and provided based on this highly standardized infrastructure. This also includes the chance to conduct video conferences among all of the Asklepios Clinics.

Professor Roland Brüning, Medical Director of Radiology at the Asklepios Clinic in Barmbek, immediately recognized the possibilities for conducting tumor conferences which were made possible with this new technology. Within the framework of the accredited breast cancer center of which the Asklepios clinics in Altona and Barmbek are a part of, this chance was taken for the first time in a medical setting. All tumor conference participants have access to the same data here. Images, laboratory results and all other provided data are accessible to all participants. So all participant of a tumor conference can see patient information like for instance X-rays or treatment plans through these telemedicine applications?

Hess: That’s right, although there can definitely be some obstacles from hospital to hospital despite all standardization. If two hospitals each have a PACS, it still doesn’t mean despite all standardization that they can exchange data without any problems. After all, normally you not only have to take a look at the topic of interface, but also need to consider different system dialects, so that it quickly became clear to us that we need to display this communication differently.

Thanks to OneIT+, the advanced services of OneIT, any number of communication channels are available: mail, chat, phone and even video conference with the possibility of screen sharing are useable with large scale integration. All this also works in larger groups, in which thanks to this technology you can also use screen sharing for a group of participants. And this one is independent of the primary system.

Photo: Elderly man with a yellow tie 
Jörg Focke;
© Asklepios Kliniken

Jörg Focke: The remarkable thing about this solution is that we can – completely independent of the used software at the participating sites – conduct the tumor conference. All participants see the same images and data on their screens, regardless of their location and the implemented clinical information systems there. Technologically speaking, this is the most important prerequisite for the tumor conference, during which there is an accompanying online documentation where the results of the case conference are being recorded. In addition, it is being captured who participated in the conference. At the end, the documentation gets signed and then becomes an integral part of the patient’s treatment plan which was coordinated by all experts. The patient does not have to spend a lot of time to visit all experts one after another to receive an overall result. Thanks to the weekly tumor conferences, the patient receives the treatment plan much quicker; a time advantage that is oftentimes significant in the patient’s difficult personal situation. Is there a plan to involve the patients in these telemedicine approaches?

Hess: We definitely have ideas for this. But for the topic of tumor conference these efforts clearly don’t exist. It would not be the appropriate vehicle, to have the patient participate in a setting where people speak about her in a language that’s foreign to her. This would not be useful. In the future, physicians in private practice will have the chance to electronically participate in a case conference about their patients.

But we definitely have approaches that are about providing a direct benefit for the patient. After all, many people today go online and there is nothing that speaks against patients for instance receiving the results of their blood tests from their general practitioner online and discuss it there with him.

Focke: In Scandinavian countries similar approaches to ours are being evaluated. We are convinced that this technology will help us in the future to better solve the challenges of public health care. Technology can assist us in reducing the effects of demographic changes and the much debated shortage of physicians in rural areas. It also offers the chance for every individual to have a longer, self-determined life at an older age.

The interview was conducted by Simone Ernst and translated by Elena O'Meara


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