In 2019, the Basque Country and Scotland regions were awarded Reference Sites with four stars and also a special “Recognition of Excellence” by the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA). This partnership has contributed to transfer knowledge on digital solutions for Active and Healthy Ageing between both regions since 2012.

The European Commission (EC) highlighted the efforts of both regions to promote regional innovation for active and healthy ageing, improve the quality of life of the ageing population, enhance the provision of healthcare and social care services and boost financial growth and competitiveness. The Commission also highlighted that both regions have shown excellence in the development, adoption and scaling-up of innovative practices, which are in line with the strategic objectives of the EIP on AHA, and can serve as an example to other European regions

The EC, through the EIP on AHA, launched in 2020 a call to support Twinning initiatives between regions distinguished as Reference Sites. The Scottish Government  and Kronikgune Institute for Health Services Research from the Basque Country’s  application for funding to undertake knowledge exchange activities in the field of video consultation in health and social care services was successful.

As a result of restrictions on travel due to COVID-19, all twinning activities have been delivered virtually. On 23rd October and 17th November 2020, experts from the two regions participated in virtual workshops, covering various aspects of the Scottish video consultation services, Near Me, and Osakidetza Basque Health Service’s Active Patient Programme virtual groups and multi-morbid patients pilots.

The primary purpose of the knowledge exchange was to enable Basque experts to acquire further knowledge and skills in the use of video consultation services (through its Near Me platform), with a primary focus on the Scottish business model and service redesign, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshops and information shared offered Basque experts an opportunity to assess the feasibility of transferring their learning into the context of the Basque Country. The  high number of professionals from different settings from Osakidetza that actively participated in this knowledge transfer project at a European level is remarkable, thus demonstrating the relevant and pertinence of the topic.

A secondary purpose was the opportunity for Scottish video consultation experts to learn about Basque experience and operational aspects of the Basque Active Patient Programme – and, in particular, its virtual group sessions.

In terms of learning outcomes, the twinning has served to highlight and bring out the requirements for the use of the video consultation in a healthcare system to improve coordination and communication between professionals, social care service and patients. It has also accelerated the creation of a group of experts with different profiles that may be key and necessary in the implementation process. Osakidetza believes that twinning knowledge exchange and learning process can benefit all the system and Basque citizenship in general.

Specifically, the twinning activities have helped Osakidetza to know how important the following aspects of video consultation are to the implementation process:

  • Analyse results of the experiences carried out in Osakidetza.
  • Start defining and planning the video consultation implementation process
  • Increase the coordination of different services and departments for example healthcare and social care relationship.
  • Define video consultation scope.
  • Support interoperability between the tool, healthcare record and patient health folder.
  • Ensure citizen security and privacy. Ensure tool easy access, user friendliness and user interaction.

Osakidetza has just started working on video consultation implementation and these twinning activities have provided an impetus to continue working on this path. The Basque Country expert group has expressed their interest in continuing to learn more about Scotland’s experience. For Scotland, the learning from the Basque Active Patient Programme group sessions will be incorporated into the implementation plans targeting appropriate services that wish to deliver virtual group sessions.