Improving Health Care in the Balkans: UA Surgery Professor Receives Grant to Establish Telemedicine Center in Albania

 

Dr. LatifiThe University of Arizona, through the International Virtual e-Hospital Foundation founded and led by UA trauma surgeon Rifat Latifi, MD, FACS, was awarded a $750,000 cooperative agreement from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to establish a National Telemedicine Center in Albania.

This two-year project will establish a National Telemedicine Center at the Mother Teresa Hospital in Tirana, Albania, with the support of the Albania Ministry of Health and the University of Tirana Medical School.

“Creation of the National Telemedicine Center of Albania will establish the foundation for The Integrated Telemedicine and e-Health Program, a national telemedicine and e-health network in all public hospitals of Albania,” said Dr. Latifi, professor of surgery and vice chair of international relations in the UA Department of Surgery.

With funds provided through the Headquarters US European Command, Humanitarian Assistance Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will construct or renovate space for all 14 regional telemedicine centers in hospitals in the cities of Berat, Dibër, Durrës, Elbasan, Fier, Gjirokastër, Korcë, Kukës, Lezhë, Lushnjë, Shkodër and Vlorë. The network also will be linked with the Trauma Center at Military Hospital in Tirana.

In August, The International Virtual e-Hospital Foundation, the Department of Surgery and the Arizona Telemedicine Program at the UA College of Medicine successfully completed a three-year project, “Improving Healthcare in the Balkans Using Telemedicine, Advanced Technologies and Cultural Exchange as Platform.” Funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the project involved the nations Kosova and Macedonia.

The new program in Albania is part of this wider telemedicine network being developed in the Balkans and Southeastern Europe, based on the successful Kosova telemedicine program model established in 2002. The Initiate, Build, Operate, Transfer (IBOT) model in Kosova allows medical specialists to use information and communication technologies to help deliver quality health-care services to the region, including diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases and injuries. In addition, the network is used for research and evaluation and for training and continuing education of health-care providers.

“IBOT is a great strategy to help build modern health capacities in developing countries like Albania and other nations around the world,” said Dr. Latifi, founder of the IVeH Foundation. “This program is great tool for the U.S. to be involved in the implementation of medical and health diplomacy.”

A summary of IBOT will be published this month in the Telemedicine and e-Health Journal, the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association.

The IVeH Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Anchorage, Alaska, was created to help rebuild the medical system in Kosova and other developing nations by introducing and implementing telemedicine, telehealth and virtual educational programs.

The project team will include many other national experts, including Ronald C. Merrell, MD, Virginia Commonwealth University; Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, Arizona Telemedicine Program, University of Arizona; Charles Doarn, University of Cincinnati; Kathe Boucha, Anchorage, Alaska; Ismet Lecaj, MD, and Flamur Bekteshi, Telemedicine Program of Kosova.

 

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