Aim of the discussion
This session will examine how telemedicine (telehealth) has been applied to enhance the provision of primary care in the Western Balkan economies during the COVID-19 pandemic, what lessons can be learned from integration into the health system of other economies, and what steps should be taken to ensure continuous and sustainable use of telemedicine in primary health care beyond the pandemic.
Adopting digital solutions in primary health care settings facilitates the delivery of safe, accessible and personalized care. Digital health services such as telemedicine consultations, patient portals or mobile apps, can empower individuals and improve accessibility to primary care by removing barriers to service provision and monitoring in remote areas and for patients with special needs. From a public health perspective, integration of new technologies in primary health care also supports the achievement of key public health goals and helps tackle challenges such as reducing inequities in care delivery and making such care more accessible and affordable.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enourmous pressure on health systems across the globe, regardless of their type and structure. Telemedicine has been crucial for the continuity of primary care services, as it has helped to bridge the gap between people, physicians and health systems. Communication and information exchange through virtual channels has been shown to be an effective and sustainable solution for prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Despite the rapid roll-out of telemedicine in the last year, countries faced a variety of issues such as regulatory obstacles, questions of digital maturity, reimbursements, infrastructure issues and digital disparities in telemedicine adoption among different population groups.
What can be done to remove these barriers to accelerate the implementation of telemedicine Can telemedicine become a tool used by the governments to facilitate sustained digital transformation of their health systems? Participants of the discussion are invited to provide their perspectives on these questions in the context of the Western Balkans.