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Umberto Paolucci shared his experience with telemedicine during the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference

The World Health Organization defines telemedicine as "The provision of health services by health professionals, where distance is a critical factor, using information and communication technologies to exchange valid information for the purposes of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injury, research and evaluation, and to facilitate the continuing education of health professionals, with the aim of safeguarding the health of individuals and communities". 

The concept of telemedicine is not new. The accelerated development of information and communication technology have led many healthcare systems around the world to recognize the suitability of remote health service provision as a solution to the chronic shortages of doctors and as a means of promoting more equitable access to healthcare. 

Telemedicine can help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of universal health coverage by improving access to good, safe and cost-effective health services for patients. Telemedicine can bring added value to those living in remote areas, vulnerable groups, elderly people with chronic diseases. Technology can also facilitate communication between members of the care team, improving the coordination of patient care.

UMBERTO PAOLUCCI, Up Invest Srl and Former President, Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa, shared his own experience with telemedicine during his career.


“Let me congratulate you, for dedicating your energies and time to this very important challenge. Let me say a few things about myself. I spent my entire career in software. I spent more than 25 years in Microsoft, in various roles across Europe, Middle-East and Africa. 
After that, I invested my time and money, if I can… say so, in helping smaller organizations, enthusiastic and smart developers in various roles, and working also in larger organizations, in particular also in healthcare, which is the interest of my life. Let me tell you why.
And that coincides with the first contact I had with telemedicine: in the early 50s, I used to live in a small village by the Adriatic Sea coast in Italy. My father was a pediatrician, he was a doctor, and he managed to have the first telephone number, number 9. You had to call the operator who connected him with the others. In this village, there were something like ten numbers. But in the villages around, in the places around, there were other doctors, who were not specialized in pediatrics, and they needed my father’s help.
So not so much with patients, because patients came to ring the door and to call, also at night, and he had to wake up almost every night and to go visit kids and stay with parents, to make sure that they really were comforted by having a doctor at home (there were no hospitals around), but the telephone was used by his colleagues, so he was in touch with colleagues to share his knowledge and then to decide maybe to visit together. So that was a very impactful thing, also because 25 miles north and south, and maybe 50 miles west there were no other pediatricians. So it was a challenge… but he had a happy life and he continued to work up to the end of the ninth decade, and died at 94 years old. 
With a jump of almost two decades, I go to mention my brother, who used to work as Director of the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Bologna Sant’Orsola, which was a very advanced place also at that time, in the early sixties, and he was very fixated with numbers, with sharing knowledge with numbers, that can speak and can help. So he traveled and spent a lot of money, because traveling was expensive in those days, to understand what they were doing in the United States of America. He was also a pediatrician and a hematologist, in particular, he had to take care of leukemia and those terrible diseases, in order to share the knowledge, share the best experiences, share the protocols, to make sure that numbers could help in deciding what was more effective.
He was running around every day, with his white doctor robe in the hospital, with a slide rule in his pocket. There were no computers, the first pocket computer, the Hewlett Packard HP-35 appeared a decade later. I used to work at Hewlett Packard at that time and I bought the first one in 1972, I spent almost two monthly salaries and I gave it to my brother so that he could more easily put together numbers, which then he put in his publications, in his reports, in the letters that he sent to his colleagues, in order to share what numbers could say, in order to make the numbers speak, in the interest of patients. 
And then with a jump to today I see what my friend Professor Claudio Azzolini is doing with his software solutions for telemedicine, for sharing, for helping, and for widening the impact of knowledge and experience, which is, I can tell you also as a patient of professor Azzolini, it is fantastic. I am very touched by what I see when I go as a patient to see him. And I did it also today. So I am very grateful to him. Nothing to do with this event, but I wanted to tell you that I am very grateful to this man, to this real man. So, talking about ourselves, data speak, but you have to allow them to speak. You have to ensure that you have enough software, that you have enough, and the right ones, algorithms, enough infrastructures, servers, devices, connections, and high-speed connections, in order to make sure that you can put together AI solutions. And now the good news is that there are tools, Open AI just introduced one, to prepare Custom Models, Large Language Models specific to a given set of challenges, that are very focused on something.
So my message, since E-health is really the most promising field of AI applications, if I have to leave you with a message, my message is: make sure that you invest, the money that you get, in education. In education that means bringing more doctors into the field, in education for software developers, for data scientists, for specialists, in order to find models and tools that are focused on your challenges. Not an application of something else, but on your specific challenges, in order to find people who could stay with your patients in your very challenged areas, together with them, close to them, speaking with them, because applying technology alone, it’s not good enough. You have to find some sort of hybrid solution: human beings, with their empathy, with software tools behind them. So, if there is one, and one only word to leave with you, (no, actually I have another one to leave with you), this word is Education, Education, and Education. The other one, I just close on this, is a lesson that my father and brother gave me during their life: that you cannot really be a good doctor, and really take care of your patients, if you don’t love them. 
Thank you.”


The FINAL DECLARATION of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference is now available! The Plan of Action including a list of projects and proposals that emerged from the discussion will be available soon. STAY TUNED!

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