BACKGROUND: The European Reference Networks, ERNs, are virtual networks for healthcare providers across Europe to collaborate and share expertise on complex or rare diseases and conditions. As part of the ERNs, the Clinical Patient Management System, CPMS, a secure digital platform, was developed to allow and facilitate web-based, clinical consultations between submitting clinicians and relevant international experts. The European Reference Network on Intellectual Disability, TeleHealth and Congenital Anomalies, ERN ITHACA, was formed to harness the clinical and diagnostic expertise in the sector of rare, multiple anomaly and/or intellectual disability syndromes, chromosome disorders and undiagnosed syndromic disorders. We present the first year results of CPMS use by ERN ITHACA as an example of a telemedicine strategy for the diagnosis and management of patients with rare developmental disorders.

RESULTS: ERN ITHACA ranked third in telemedicine activity amongst 24 European networks after 12 months of using the CPMS. Information about 28 very rare cases from 13 different centres across 7 countries was shared on the platform, with diagnostic or other management queries. Early interaction with patient support groups identified data protection as of primary importance in adopting digital platforms for patient diagnosis and care. The first launch of the CPMS was built to accommodate the needs of all ERNs. The ERN ITHACA telemedicine process highlighted a need to customise the CPMS with network-specific requirements. The results of this effort should enhance the CPMS utility for telemedicine services and ERN-specific care outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: We present the results of a long and fruitful process of interaction between the ERN ITHACA network lead team and EU officials, software developers and members of 38 EU clinical genetics centres to organise and coordinate direct e-healthcare through a secure, digital platform. The variability of the queries in just the first 28 cases submitted to the ERN ITHACA CPMS is a fair representation of the complexity and rarity of the patients referred, but also proof of the sophisticated and variable service that could be provided through a structured telemedicine approach for patients and families with rare developmental disorders. Web-based approaches are likely to result in increased accessibility to clinical genomic services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103
JournalOrphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2020


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