Disparities in cancer prevention and care are also linked to the geographical context, such as in rural and difficult-to-reach areas of countries that are disadvantaged in comparison with other territorial settings. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit even further the most disadvantaged groups in society, including cancer patients. Isolation and containment measures due to the pandemic have affected their follow-up care and quality of life. The Union is working to ensure continued and equitable access to care, including in crisis situations, and the activities under this action are a key part of these efforts. The usage of telemedicine in healthcare has also been acknowledged as important in responding to and coordinating actions in epidemic situations, including the current COVID19 pandemic that is severely impacting cancer care, through online consultations and realtime clinical data exchange, and the provision of technical support to the emerging need for big-data analysis and digitalisation. The award of a direct grant as referred to in Article 13(5) of Regulation (EU) 2021/522 is duly justified because this action can only be carried out by Member States authorities that have the required competence and responsibility to implement the Union policies at national level. This joint action supports the implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan objective to reduce cancer inequalities across the Union, and implements the EU4Health Programme’s general objective of improving and fostering health in the Union (Article 3, point (a)) through the specific objectives defined in Article 4, points (a) and (b) of Regulation (EU) 2021/522.
OBJECTIVES, SCOPE AND ACTIVITIES
The objective of this joint action is to strengthen and integrate telemedicine and remote monitoring in health and care systems and to promote the virtual consultation model of the ERNs. Activities in this area will include strengthening and integrating telemedicine and remote monitoring in health and care systems building on innovative approaches and actions for the deployment of telemedicine using Union funds. Telemedicine services will help individuals and providers to meet the needs of citizens, including rural and remote residents and other groups, by enabling remote consultations, inhome monitoring, outsourced diagnostic analysis, remote specialist consultations, and directto-consumer telemedicine, for instance through virtual consultations for urgent care needs. Furthermore, telemedicine activities will help in improving the response to the rapid spread of epidemics, and their impact on cancer care, through the ability to deliver clinical care in a timely manner and through a more efficient coordination amongst health authorities, hospitals and patients. Additionally, the already established virtual consultation model of the ERNs will be upgraded using the mechanisms and instruments which will be developed to improve the knowledgesharing among healthcare professionals.
EXPECTED RESULTS AND IMPACT It is expected that the exchange of best practices on using digital tools will provide assistance to individuals and patients during serious cross-border emergencies and health crises, in particular to those in remote and rural areas. Such improvement of cancer care in remote areas will:
(a) allow for a better response in case of a rapid spread of an epidemic and in crisis situations, where isolation of patients will be an urgent requirement to respond to events; (b) increase capability and capacity to communicate between cancer services during an emergency situation and health crises; (c) improve knowledge of the cancer care workforce in the virtual consultation of patients and survivors resident in areas that are difficult-to-reach, as well as improving preparedness to respond to emergency and crisis situations; (d) increase efficiency by upgrading and promoting the already established virtual consultation model of the ERNs; and (e) increase communication to support knowledge-sharing among healthcare professionals.