The Code of Practice, formally launched 29 October at the European Telemedicine Conference in Edinburgh, provides a benchmark standard against which telehealth service providers could be accredited.
"The Code marks the culmination of extensive work by partners of the EU-funded TeleSCoPE project", says Frederic Lievens, one of the project experts. "It fits well with some of the roadmaps that have been addressed in the European Commission's eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 that was released last year."
By providing a benchmark standard, the Code has the potential to satisfy the requirements of governments, public and regulatory bodies who are concerned for any services that contribute to meeting people's healthcare and support needs.
The Code also aims to help give citizens, users and carers confidence and trust in the telehealth services which they may use.
"They might have concerns about the safeguarding of personal information", says Lievens. "But there are also crucial considerations addressed in the Code that relate to service sustainability; the way that services are marketed and that technologies are procured. And the way in which communication takes place with users in both face to face and teleconsultations. Without these, and the other requirements within the Code, there is a risk of an unconstrained market where commercial objectives could over-ride those which are concerned with care and support."
Benchmark for existing services, guide for new services
Telehealth services throughout the EU are now being invited to consider becoming accredited to the Code. This may mean reviewing the way they currently operate and making some adjustments. New services will be able to be guided by the Code and its clauses. Detailed frameworks for assessments and audits will be in place early 2014.
The Code of Practice can be viewed at www.telehealthcode.eu.