Programme For Emergency Telemedicine
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Programme For Emergency Telemedicine

Petrom needed to act as a reliable partner for communities in need, because these were the areas were Petrom employees lived, together with their families and friends.

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When the client is the biggest private employer of Romania, in one of the most challenging industries in the world, you know that communities are key to developing sustainable business.

Petrom needed to act as a reliable partner for communities in need, because these were the areas were Petrom employees lived, together with their families and friends.

So, considering the real needs in times of crisis, we took two major decisions: first, we built a coalition of partnerships with the best in the field and second we made no exception in listening to all relevant stakeholders. As a result, we managed to design a platform that will impact 7.5 millions of Romanians in terms of access to healthcare, modern infrastructure and medical education.

The context – the worrying figures. 2010 started with wage cuts of 25% in the Romanian Public sector. From University professors to firemen or doctors, nobody escaped the painful cuts. Far worse, the Government announced it was planning to close 150 hospitals out of 450, because of funds shortage. All local infrastructure investments were frozen.

This was happening in an already gloomy situation: Romania had only 1,8 doctors per 1000 people (half the European standard), they were paid 5 times less than their European colleagues, and had access to modern medical technology only in few excellence Medical Centres (both from academic and applied medicine perspective), located only in the big cities.

Under these circumstances, small communities were becoming desperate. Inhabitants of rural areas often have to walk for tens or even hundreds of kms to the nearest hospital. Moreover, not trusting their local doctors, more than half of the patients preferred to go straight to the emergency room of big medical centers even for minor problems. Consequently, most patients were sent to the capital. More than 50% of the Bucharest ER patients come from outside the city. Each ER from Bucharest receives more than 146.000 patients per year and has three times fewer doctors than the number recommended at European level.

Thus, the brief was clear: Petrom wanted to keep the communities where operating protected by using a sustainable emergency care solution, not a momentary relief.

The solution. The strategic approach followed several pillars: strong partners, relevant stakeholders, real needs and prompt answers.

Our solution was to create very a modern and highly efficient system of emergency medical assistance. The system – called telemedicine – represented a professional way to offer remote medical assistance from an excellence medical Center to a smaller medical touch-point in a community.

But for the system to work, we needed cooperation of all stakeholders: Petrom invested in the technical infrastructure, Ministry of Health brought medical support & know how (teams of highly specialised doctors offering support to remote communities), local authorities created ER spaces (within small hospitals) where the telemedicine infrastructure was implemented, Ministry of Internal Affairs agreed to give logistic support (flying helicopters), while Secret Service Telecom Division ensured secured connections for telecommunications (to meet the European standards of medical confidentiality).

In just 6 months, 40% of Romania’s counties were covered by a highly efficient telemedicine network, capable to assess and distribute any emergency medical case to the right hospital in their proximity. Petrom remote communities (from sea oil platforms to secluded refineries) were also connected to the telemedicine system.

Medical communities were thrilled: Doctors from excellence medical centres will be able to ensure medical assistance without asking transport of the patients to ER. They will also be able to assist and teach their less experienced fellow-doctors in complex trauma interventions. Moreover, the doctor from the centre and the one from the smaller hospital can decide together on the best option for patients’ management, as well as on the hospital.

Based on a pilot project phase, we estimate that the system will save thousands of lives per year, while dramatically reducing costs of the healthcare budget.

Combining European directives with Romania’s realities, we decided that telemedicine was the answer to Romania’s acute lack of specialized medical personnel, which is worsened by the serious difficulties in infrastructure. Moreover, considering the client’s profile (oil industry), medical assistance was crucial for managing activities with a high degree of risk.

Results in a nutshell

By extending the telemedicine network, we made sure we were addressing one of the most pressing needs (as the Government and international forums declared) of Romania and of local communities. We needed an impactful programme: 7.5 million people (the population serviced by all the medical units included in the new telemedicine network) will benefit from this new programme. Although the programme is at its early steps (the technical situation is being implemented), we have already succeeded in engaging all important stakeholders: the Romanian Ministry of Health accepted to be a partner in the entire process.

Raed Arafat, founder of a non-profit organization for Emergency Assistance and by far the most credible voice in emergency care for Romania, accepted to endorse the programme and appeared in various interviews to talk about the initiative. The feedback from local stakeholders (regional media and doctors from local medical units) was also impressive. Several online comments (on company’s social media websites and in reaction to the articles published online) applauded the initiative.

Petrom won an award for excellence in community involved at the “10 for Romania” Gala. “10 for Romania” is an international event concept (with great success in UK and Russia) that rewards excellence in various fields. The jury is comprised of members of the media, NGOs, and specialists from various fields. Dr. Raed Arafat, our main endorser, also won an “10 for Romania award” for excellence in the emergency medical care.
 

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