This is the first article in a Series on collaborative projects between European countries, relevant for general practice/family medicine and primary healthcare. Telemedicine, in particular the use of the Internet, videoconferencing and handheld devices such as smartphones, holds the potential for further strides in the application of technology for the delivery of healthcare, particularly to communities in rural and remote areas within and without the European Union where this study is taking place. The Northern Periphery Programme has funded the 'Implementing Transnational Telemedicine Solutions' (ITTS) project from September 2011 to December 2013, led by the Centre for Rural Health in Inverness, Scotland. Ten sustainable projects based on videoconsultation (speech therapy, renal services, emergency psychiatry, diabetes), mobile patient self-management (physical activity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease) and home-based health services (medical and social care emergencies, rehabilitation, multi-morbidity) are being implemented by the six partner countries: Scotland, Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway and Sweden. In addition, an International Telemedicine Advisory Service, created for the project, provides business expertise and advice. Community panels contribute feedback on the design and implementation of services and ensure 'user friendliness'. The project goals are to improve accessibility of healthcare in rural and remote communities, reducing unnecessary hospital visits and travel in a sustainable way. Opportunities will be provided for comparative research studies. This article provides an introduction to the ITTS project and how it aims to fulfil these needs. The ITTS team encourage all healthcare providers to at least explore possible technological solutions within their own context.
Recruiting and retaining a skilled health workforce is a common challenge for remote and rural communities worldwide, negatively impacting access to services, and in turn peoples' health. The research literature highlights different factors facilitating or hindering recruitment and retention of healthcare workers to remote and rural areas; however, there are few practical tools to guide local healthcare organizations in their recruitment and retention struggles. The purpose of this paper is to describe the development process, the contents, and the suggested use of The Framework for Remote Rural Workforce Stability. The Framework is a strategy designed for rural and remote healthcare organizations to ensure the recruitment and retention of vital healthcare personnel.
The Framework is the result of a 7-year, five-country (Sweden, Norway, Canada, Iceland, and Scotland) international collaboration combining literature reviews, practical experience, and national case studies in two different projects.
The Framework consists of nine key strategic elements, grouped into three main tasks (plan, recruit, retain). Plan: activities to ensure that the population's needs are periodically assessed, that the right service model is in place, and that the right recruits are targeted. Recruit: activities to ensure that the right recruits and their families have the information and support needed to relocate and integrate in the local community. Retain: activities to support team cohesion, train current and future professionals for rural and remote health careers, and assure the attractiveness of these careers. Five conditions for success are recognition of unique issues; targeted investment; a regular cycle of activities involving key agencies; monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting; and active community participation.
The Framework can be implemented in any local context as a holistic, integrated set of interventions. It is also possible to implement selected components among the nine strategic elements in order to gain recruitment and/or retention improvements.