The OESO-RAFT project
Antoine Geissbuhler, MD and Robert Giuli, MD
This project is the result of a close cooperation between the two Organizations.
Its end objective is to make an effective contribution to healthcare education and to the organization of healthcare systems in various countries round the world by a coordinating procedure aimed at generating efficiency as well as equity.
The logic behind the application of telematics to healthcare, Continuing Medical Education and exchanges between practitioners and students is the benefit derived from the spreading of specific knowledge and know-how by means of computer-aided learning tools designed for medical applications.
Distance learning and Telemedicine would thus appear to be necessary components of the healthcare system, satisfying the requirements well recognized today for a multi-disciplinary cooperation.
The aim of this proposal is the organization of a strategic partnership in an E-health project:
● with knowledge transfer,
● for a sustainable project,
● benefiting from the accomplishments already achieved by the OESO Foundation and the RAFT Network,
- in large university hospitals as well as in regional and district hospitals,
- among experts as well as general practitioners and students,
- in French speaking as well as in English speaking countries.
Founded in 2001 in Geneva, the OESO Foundation allows to assemble in the same Institution various types of expertise in order to implement
● a network for the collaborative creation of high level medical content, and its dissemination by distance learning,
● a structured training program aiming to develop medical skills, especially in Institutions in developing countries.
This structure is backed by the expertise, the international renown, and the network of corresponding members of OESO (World Organization for Specialized Studies on Diseases of the Esophagus) in the field of collaborative, multi-disciplinary creation of high level medical content applied to diseases of the digestive tract.
OESO today comprises over 14,000 corresponding members from 85 countries that can be connected in an almost instant way. They belong to 19 disciplines represented in its Permanent Scientific Committee.
The main value of the OESO multi-disciplinary, inter-university network relies on its ability to evolve according to the results of research and the evolution of medical practice, and the capacity of the technical infrastructure to cope with a large increase of services without loss of performance.
The primary interest in what the Organization OESO has built lies in its innovative approach to expand knowledge across the disciplines related to one organ, and to manage to share this knowledge by using technology in a way that will ultimately benefit patients.
The focus on esophagology enabled to set a standard of innovation that goes far beyond the esophagus and the concept applied by the Foundation can be applicable to other areas: the work that the OESO Foundation has done with the CME platform which is now in function, as well as its specific and original technology are one of the only examples of such a combination.
The RAFT network
Continuing education of healthcare professionals and access to specialized advice are keys for the quality and efficiency of a health system. In developing countries, these activities are usually limited to capitals, and delocalized professionals do not have access to such opportunities, or even to didactic material adapted to their needs. This limits the interest of such professionals to remain active in the periphery, where they are most needed to implement effective strategies for prevention and first-line healthcare.
In order to address these needs, the Geneva University Hospitals have developed the RAFT, a telemedicine network in Africa, initiated in 2001, and now spanning to more than 15 African countries.
The core activity of the RAFT is the webcasting of interactive courses targeted to physicians and other care professionals, the topics being proposed by the partners of the network. Courses are webcast every week, freely available, and followed by hundreds of professionals who can interact directly with the teacher. 70% of these courses are now produced and webcast by experts in Africa. A bandwidth of 30 kbits/second, the speed of an analog modem, is sufficient, and enables the participation from remote hospitals or even cybercafés. Other activities of the RAFT network include tele-consultations, tele-echography, and collaborative development of educational on-line material.
The network is organized and run by more than 40 national coordinators and a small coordination team based in Geneva. In each of the partner countries, the RAFT activities are supervised by the focal point, a medical authority (usually a university professor) that links the project to the national governmental bodies (ministry of health, ministry of education). A local medical coordinator (a junior physician) and a technical coordinator take care of the day-to-day operations, including communication with the care professionals, identification of training needs, technical training and support of the various sites within the country.