With health and online living becoming top concerns in the past year, the topic of ‘eHealth’ and how NRENs can work together to support it has also been gaining visibility. For partners in the EU-funded EaPConnect project this builds on activities of the past few years, which now find resonances with GÉANT and with the EU’s EU4Digital initiative.
Words: Laura Durnford, GÉANT
The first exploration of challenges and solutions for NRENs in supporting biomedical research communities was in 2018. Representatives from the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – met peers from Denmark, Israel, Italy, and Poland in a workshop organised with EaPConnect by the Italian NREN GARR, which was already active in eHealth support. The event highlighted the diversity of situations in different countries and of needs among relevant research communities, infrastructures and projects.
The complexity of legal, ethical, security and computational resource challenges in supporting biomedical research were evident. A presentation from Belarus showed work to develop Artificial Intelligence tools to improve image analysis for medical research, training, and practice, in which such
challenges are particularly pressing.
Medical images’ generation, storage and usage have been a focus in Moldova. NREN support for the
standard ‘DICOM’ (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) system and its integration with administration systems intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and has extended from one to five hospitals in the capital, Chisinau.
These examples were shared in two events in early 2021:
- A virtual event in March, on advanced analytics usage in medical images, was the first in a series of eHealth collaboration events organised by EU4Digital – the initiative through which the EU supports the development of harmonised national frameworks for eHealth among EaP and EU countries. The EU4Digital ‘eHealth Network’ audience of representatives from EaP health ministries and other relevant institutions heard presentations from RENAM (Moldova) and UIIP NASB (Belarus).
- An ‘eHealth Baselining Meeting’ organised by EaPConnect and the EU-funded GÉANT (GN4-
3) project in January drew 70+ participants from NRENs and other organisations around the world. Experiences from EaP, EU and Brazilian NRENs broadened the discussion to include telemedicine, SME collaboration, and the potential role for Clouds. A warning that technological developments could mean NREN computing and data handling services become bypassed raised the question whether NRENs should widen their focus if they are to play a meaningful role in the changing eHealth landscape.
These discussions continued in a ‘Birds of a Feather’ (BoF) meeting at TNC21, where a new GÉANT eHealth task force was presented.
EaPConnect is funded by the European Union within the EU4Digital initiative.
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