HTM Speaks With Frank Lievens, Secretary/Treasurer, ISfTeH

HTM Speaks With Frank Lievens, Secretary/Treasurer, ISfTeH

Frank Lievens is the Secretary/Treasurer of the ISfTeH, an NGO in official relations with the World Health Organisation. With a Master in Economic and Diplomatic Sciences since 1989, Frank has been involved in Telemedicine since 1989 via a keen interest in Home Care Applications. Frank is also the Managing Director of LIEVENS-LANCKMAN BVBA and AKROMED FRANCE, two companies involved in the manufacturing and global distribution of Medical Devices.

Fact File

  • International Coordinator of MED-e-TEL in Luxembourg
  • Board member, Secretary and Treasurer of the ISfTeH
  • Was involved in the creation of MED-e-TEL, the International Educational & Networking Forum for eHealth, Telemedicine & Health ICT, taking place yearly in Luxembourg and acts as its Director.
  • Was elected to the Board of the ISfTeH (International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth) in September 2003 as Treasurer, and re-elected in December 2007 as Secretary-Treasurer.
  • Has been attending many Telemedicine Conferences and Events in various countries 

He was involved in the creation of MED-e-TEL, the International educational & Networking Forum for eHealth, Telemedicine & Health ICT, taking place yearly in Luxembourg and acts as its International coordinator. He was elected to the Board of the ISfTeH (International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth) in September 2003 as Treasurer, and re-elected in December 2007 as Secretary-Treasurer.

He has attended many Telemedicine Conferences and Events in various countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, U.A.E., U.K., Ukraine, U.S.A. Presentations on the Global Vision about Telemedicine/eHealth were made in: Abu Dhabi, Abuja, Antwerp, Bangalore, Berlin, Bhubaneswar, Brisbane, Brussels, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Chandigarh, Chennai, Copenhagen, Dubai, Durban, Donetsk, Fiuggi, Guanzhou, Joensuu, Kuala Lumpur, Kunming, London, Luxembourg, Lyon, Mangalia, Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, Ottawa, Parana, Paris, Perth, Pune, Sao Paulo, Sarajevo, Saratov, Skopje, Sofia, Tarusa, Tirana, Tromsö, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb.

What opportunities currently exist in the global telemedicine industry?

One should actually first define “Telemedicine Industry” ! Telemedicine is covered by many different industrial applications, going from Medical Devices, via IT and Telecommunication, to even Textiles (wearables) and many others. That in itself is already quite a broad scope of opportunities. In fact, Telemedicine I not an industry by itself, but calls upon the input of many industries.

How well are caregivers adopting telemedicine technology?

This is an ongoing process, in the same way as ICT technologies made their way into our daily lives and activities over the last 30 years. Yet, since human health is involved, it goes somewhat slower. But the new generation of caregivers is already very familiar with the modern communication tools and is adopting faster and better telemedicine technology.

What applications does telemedicine suit?

Technologically it can be almost anything. All medical “specialities” can become “Tele”. But the human factor must prevail. If and when Telemedicine allows to treat and serve better the patient (also to more efficient means at the hands of the caregivers), then it fully responds to its goals and potential.

As healthcare moves towards Big data, what security risks exist in telemedicine?

In my opinion, there are no more security risks in Telemedicine than there are or were in the traditional systems so far. Security risks have always existed ! It is correct though that modern ICT allows to register and use far more data than before. But it also allows to develop better security tools. Behind any technology are humans. Therefore it is the responsibility of all partners involved in the telemedicine process to define properly all ins and out’s and to install adequate procedures.

What vital signs may be monitored with telemedicine?

As indicated before, almost any vital parts of the human body can be monitored with Telemedicine. Just refer to : Tele-Dermatology, Tele-Cardiology, Tele-Oncology, Tele-Odontology, Tele-Ophtalmology, Tele-Periodontics, Tele-Woundcare, Tele-Pediatrics, Tele-Psychiatry, etc…

Can telemedicine consultations replace face-to-face appointments?

Telemedicine will never fully “replace” face-to-face appointments. It will run in parallel or in addition. It will be most useful when the patient cannot physically cover the distance to the physician, or in order to avoid costly travels. Specific situations will determine whether a face-to face appointment is mandatory. If not, contact between the patient and the healthcare professional can now be taking place at a distance, thanks to the Telemedicine tools.

In an insurance based healthcare culture, where does telemedicine fit in?

Unfortunately it has not yet found its place. But it definitely will at some point. This will probably come in step by step, and also varying from country to country, from Insurance system to another. I consider it essential to start with establishing a Telemedicine/eHealth nomenclature, creating a list defining Telemedicine acts, products, filled in with the respective cost prices. The next step will then be to decide what will be up for reimbursement and at what level. It would be great if this could be a trans-boarder exercise (e.g. at European Union). But this may be too much asked at this point in time.

What initiatives are the ISFTeH currently spearheading in the business?

The ISfTeH at this point is essentially a “Networking” Society. Its mission is to facilitate the international dissemination of knowledge and experience in Telemedicine and eHealth and to provide access to recognized experts in the field worldwide. Emphasis is on developing and emerging countries.

How will The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 improve the industry?

We can only trust that it will. It is quite difficult to already evaluate at this point.

Where will the telemedicine industry be in 5 years time?

Two pieces of good news : a. there is no way back! b. the future of Telemedicine/eHealth does not evolve between two parallel lines. They evolve between two permanently enlarging axes, meaning that, as we speak, the scope become broader and the potential increases day by day. My vision and hope are that eHealth/Telemedicine will grow in such a controlled way that, maybe within the 10…20…50 years, there will be no more need to talk about it, as it will have melted entirely in the common practice of medicine and health policies.

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