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HSE telemedicine solution will be reviewed at end of contract — spokesperson

The new telemedicine solution procured by the HSE in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was given Department of Public Expenditure and Reform approval on the condition that a review is carried out at the end of the 12-month contract, the Medical Independent (MI) can report.

A project working on compiling a business case for a telehealth platform had been underway before the pandemic, but this had not fully concluded.

The new system, Attend Anywhere, was procured as a response to the pandemic and the “pressing need to meet patient needs while maintaining physical distancing”, a spokesperson for the HSE told MI.

Attend Anywhere is a clinical video conferencing toolset which is widely deployed in the NHS in the UK and also in Australia.

It also supports the management of virtual waiting rooms and is designed specifically to provide support in a healthcare clinic setting assisting multidisciplinary team input to patient consultations. The HSE contract will remain in place for 12 months, after which a procurement process for a telehealth platform will commence.

As a result of the pandemic, a desktop evaluation was undertaken to review a number of video conferencing solutions. They were ranked on functionality and user experience; bandwidth usage; deployment/training effort; and cost.

“The HSE undertook a desktop evaluation of a number of video conferencing solutions and the Attend Anywhere system was chosen as the system that best met the requirements of the clinical teams,” according to the spokesperson.

“The ease of roll-out and the fact that this system was designed for a clinical setting and was already a tried and tested solution were also factors. Patient ease of use was also a distinct positive for the system.”

It will be used by both community and hospital outpatient services, including section 38 organisations, where the clinical staff have deemed it clinically safe for the cohort of patients. There will also be one-to-one or one-to-many patient consults, where allied health professionals and public health nurses can link with their patients who are in isolation or are immunosuppressed.

“Mental health services see this technology being an important new way of delivering their services in clinical situations where it is appropriate.”

The spokesperson said the cost was commercially sensitive.

“Approval for expenditure on this service was granted through our fast-track Covid-19-related approval process through the digital Government oversight unit.”

The HSE also offers clinical staff a choice of Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx, in addition to Attend Anywhere. Microsoft Teams is part of the Microsoft 365 platform. It supports online communications, including video conferencing and chat. It is utilised in a wide variety of commercial and health settings. Cisco WebEx is also an available option but this system is favoured more in the broader clinician-to-clinician or teaching context.

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