Medetel interviews: Dr.Pirkko Kouri, ISFTeH vice-president.

Next interview conducted at Medetel that we’d like to share with our readers is that of Dr. Pirkko Kouri, now vice-president of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (ISfTeH) and an active member of it’s Working Group on Women. More biographical details to be found in the interview itself:

“I represent the Finnish society of Telemedicine and eHealth. My thbackground is from nursing, I have done my PhD related to mother-child healthcare and use of ICTs. I’m working as a principal lecturer at the Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Finland. We educate nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals as well. I’m mostly doing research and development work connected with the master level education, planning the generic models, etc.

This year I was elected vice-president of ISFTeH and i’m very happy to be the first woman to occupy this position.

Q: For you, what is the role of telemedicine ?

Telemedicine is a tool, a tool to combine different elements for people to be connected and exchange experiences around the world. Sharing information, getting information, be connected with patients and learn from each other.

Q: In your teaching curriculum, do you include materials on telemedicine?
Yes, for example I’m responsible for the Digital working environment, a web-base course. We have a team of three teachers : one from healthcare, one from engineering and one is from design and we plan the content together. Next year I’ll be the teacher in charge for the class Healthcare technology and it will be in English.

Q: How important do you think it is for healthcare professionals, nurses especially, to keep up with all the options the Digital offers in terms of healthcare ?

In Finland we have the Digital boom and digitalized healthcare, meaning that we have a nation-wide system and patients can join the system with their bank cards or any other identification and, of course, our nurses must know the benefits and what support we can offer. Face-to-face support and counseling, but also virtual, as it offers so many ways to share information and be in contact. Of course, it is a challenge to education as well: there’s a digital divide. Some people don’t have enough knowledge about ICTs and they need to have supplementary education or training at work, but it will gradually come.

The doctors are more specialized and deal with complex issues. So the guidance, mentoring and tutoring issues are more left to nurses. That is our challenge. Actually in Finland, we are tackling that: I was vice-chair of the group nominated by the Finnish Nurse Association and we launched in January the very first eHealth strategy for nurses and there are 6 different elements of this strategy that would be valid up until 2020. I think all the countries need to implement strategies that will allow eHealth to support the nursing practice; that nurses bring their expertise in the multidisciplinary development process and in collaboration with patients. Because patients themselves know quite a lot on how to use ICTs, especially young people.

The only thing to always keep in mind though is the ethical and privacy issues. Remember that Facebook is not the same as the Health Electronic Record. That is also a matter of education. Also, every time you send some kind of message in your own name there’s a kind of watch over you and you must remember all of the data collection and the traces you leave behind.

Q: You are also part of the Working group on Women a the ISFTeH. Which direction of work do you see this group take ?

Most importantly we should keep the neutrality in our work when addressing the gender issue. We should bring in facts and rely on facts and underline the positive elements of our work. We must be intelligent about which the direction we take.
Healthcare and eHealth is definitely an area that we should proceed in. Women are very present, I’m thinking mostly of nurses now, and most of them are women if we consider the global situation.
Digitalization is a new thing to consider and many things are to be learned, but many nurses, especially the older ones are hesitant in accepting changes brought by digitalization and it is something we need to work on.

Overall, speaking of the Working group on Women, we should push the opportunities for equality but in a politically neutral way.”

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