As promised in our recent post, the European Code of Practice for Telehealth Services has now been published by the TeleSCoPE project. This directly responds to the European Commission COM2008:689 on telemedicine for the benefit of patients, healthcare systems and society. The particular definition of telehealth/telemedicine used here means that it covers both of what are often referred to separately as telecare and telehealth.
It therefore covers the same areas as the TSA Integrated Code of Practice. As explained in our previous post, TSA codes are accessible by members and those seeking accreditation only so as TTA fails on both scores we are unable to download the documents to compare codes. Hearsay from others who have seen both suggests that the European Code is significantly shorter, less pre-& pro-scriptive and more future-proofed than the TSA one (which itself is understood to have borrowed heavily from the original mature telecare code of practice), although TTA is obviously unable to confirm that. Comments from readers on this aspect are particularly welcomed.
The European Code contains 50 clauses which are very clearly laid out, with a title, a simple statement of requirement, a more detailed section on guidance and a statement on the applicability of the clause, 44 of which are immediately mandatory for all services, and one mandatory after the first 12 months (the rest are mandatory where applicable). In addition, appendices give more guidance on topics such as applicable ISO standards and volunteer engagement. All seem eminently sensible on first reading though will clearly need to be tested by some pioneering accreditations (for which apparently there will be a ‘special rate’).
As explained on the website, proposals are being sought from suitably qualified organisations in the European Union by September 13th who are interested in hosting or adopting the code; details are available from Helen Muir firstname.lastname@example.org try.ac.uk.
Parallel work has been undertaken to set out draft procedures whereby telehealth and telecare services can be assessed and accredited to the European Code; there is a dialogue taking place with organisations that have the necessary skills and experience to undertake the assessments.
With the devolved parts of the NHS apparently taking more decisions independently of NHS England, it will be interesting to see which code, if any, each organisation shows a preference for. (Presumably there is no reason why TeleSCoPE might not take into account different policies and priorities in other countries to fine tune the code to meet local requirements.)