The telehealth services of the National Health Service will now have a central coordination, responsible for the development and implementation of these responses at national level through the SNS24 channels, according to an annual plan approved by the Government and published this Friday in Diário da Republic.
An order signed by the Secretary of State for Health Ricardo Mestre creates the new structure, which will allow, according to the SNS, «to reinforce the new 'distance' health responses consistently and throughout the country, contributing to increase access health services and proximity, especially with the most vulnerable populations».
The new law establishes that the Central Unit for the Provision of TeleHealth Care of the SNS, abbreviated as UCeT, is integrated into the National TeleHealth Center, which operates under the management of SPMS – Shared Services of the Ministry of Health. This structure now ensures the different telehealth services of the SNS, which include telescreenings (for example in the area of dermatology), but also valences of teleconsultation in real time and in deferred time, telemonitoring or telehabilitation, among others.
In a special way, this structure is now responsible for implementing, at national level, the new medical teleconsultation service dedicated to the elderly and/or more vulnerable people, namely to the beneficiaries of the responses of the National Network of Integrated Continuous Care, of the National Network of Palliative Care and the Network of Residential Structures for the Elderly (ERPI) and Residential Homes.
This project to expand the so-called SNS24 Branches, technological solutions that make it easier to book and carry out consultations at a distance, is already underway, with branches having been activated so far in 28 ERPIs.
Across the country, there are a total of 341 SNS24 Branches installed, namely in municipal buildings and in the Eprison establishments, where they also aim at «greater ease in scheduling and carrying out teleconsultations in articulation with the SNS Hospitals, allowing these technological tools to be accessible in an equitable way».
The development of these responses will follow annual plans, to be drawn up by the SPMS in conjunction with the priorities defined by the Executive Directorate of the National Health Service, IP and by the Central Administration of the Health System, IP, to be approved by the member of Government responsible for the area of Health . Activity funding will be integrated into the current SNS24 funding model.
«Recognizing the importance of digitization for closer proximity solutions and for quality healthcare adapted to the needs of the present and future, the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) provides funding of 300 million euros to accelerate the digital transition in Healthcare , an investment that will benefit from a structure that makes it possible to organize these valences, such as the one now created», the Ministry of Health also mentions in a note.
The Government thus renews its commitment to reinforce the SNS's capacity to respond to the health needs of the population, taking advantage of the new technological solutions available to professionals and users.