The TEAM report: analysis of telemedicine in Croatia

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The Telemedicine Education Advancement through Micro-credentials (TEAM) project is an international collaboration involving partners from Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. Dr. Martin Žagar is representing RIT Croatia stating that „the TEAM project is a significant stride for RIT Croatia, representing our commitment to shaping the future of telemedicine education“. The TEAM project seeks to transform digital health and telemedicine education by creating adaptable learning pathways that follow global best practices. It targets issues such as limited digital literacy and strives to enhance cross-sector collaboration. This initiative is particularly crucial for countries with pressing healthcare needs.

The TEAM created a report which presents a comprehensive analysis of telemedicine in Croatia. The report on telemedicine education and digital health initiatives in Croatia highlights the transformative potential of telemedicine, especially post-COVID-19. It underscores digital health's critical role in improving healthcare delivery and access, with substantial growth in telemedicine visits and centers.

Key findings for Croatia highlight the creation of a network of telemedicine centers regulated by the Health Care Act and related rules. These centers offer telemedical services in regular, emergency, and surveillance categories. The report emphasizes the significance of the Agreement on Cooperation in Encouraging the Application of Information and Communication Technologies for healthcare needs, providing a funding model for health communication infrastructure, essential for the telemedicine network's functionality.

Telemedicine's impact on healthcare delivery is further detailed through its incorporation in the Digital Croatia Strategy, which aims to address digital infrastructure and literacy challenges. This strategy is lined with the European DigComp framework, highlighting the necessity for digital skills among healthcare professionals to enhance care through technology.

The TEAM conducted a survey to assess these challenges, targeting healthcare providers and educational institutions. Key questions addressed telemedicine usage, technical support, and staff training. The survey revealed an equal split between public and private sector participants, with 70% of respondents using telemedicine frequently. Challenges identified insufficient technical support and trained staff, as well as a need for improved education on telemedicine services.

Educational institutions showed a promising inclusion of telemedicine in their programs, though gaps in literature and resources were noted. There is strong support for integrating telemedicine education into high school and university curricula. Recommendations highlight the need for micro-credentials to address basic and advanced telemedicine skills, patient communication strategies, and continuous education.

The report emphasizes integrating telemedicine education into existing programs, enhancing patient awareness, and ensuring data privacy and security. It also shows the importance of a supportive legal framework and strong partnership between healthcare and educational institutions. Recommendations include developing micro-credentials for advanced digital skills, effective virtual communication, data security, and comprehensive knowledge of telemedicine regulations and ethics.