ATA conference filled with excitement as industry embraces telemedicine

September 30, 2010 - 0 Comments

When the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) met in Baltimore for its mid-year conference this week, the TANDBERG team was there. Aside for the incredible turnout, there was an electricity and excitement in the air this year, and a lot of that has to do with the culmination of the ATA’s effort to increase adoption and get the healthcare community to embrace telemedicine.

As we’ve discussed extensively on Break Down the Walls, there are many benefits of telemedicine. Using today’s advanced video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions, doctors can provide care and treatment to patients miles away. This is extremely beneficial in rural areas and places where specialists aren’t available. Delivering a specialist via VTC can ensure that life-saving treatment can be administered in a timely manner. It also ensures that access to high quality, specialized healthcare is available to all Americans regardless of geography and without the need for expensive or lengthy travel.

Well, the benefits of telemedicine are starting to truly be noticed by the healthcare industry and government. The excitement and buzz at the ATA conference was in large part due to the barriers that have been removed, or are being removed, between the expanded use of telemedicine in the healthcare industry.

In the past, a visit to the doctor would be covered by your insurance and you would probably be on the hook for a low co-pay. That physical trip to the doctor would be covered, but a telemedicine appointment conducted via VTC would not be covered. The end result was the same, a doctor was able to see their patient, but the insurance companies wouldn’t pay for it.

In addition to the cost of telemedicine, there were prohibitive licensing regulations in place. Much of the benefit of telemedicine has to do with the ability to see patients who are far away without the need for extensive travel. Unfortunately, state licensing and other roadblocks stood in the way of doctors treating patients that were out of state or far away.

Thankfully, these things are beginning to change. As part of the recent healthcare legislation passed by Congress, healthcare companies are becoming responsible for covering telemedicine visits and treatment.

Also, a new office, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, was funded to advance medical technology and fast-track legislation that can help increase adoption of these technologies. The Center will investigate technologies that streamline delivery of healthcare and expedite legislation that removes barriers keeping them from being adopted.

On top of legislation to increase the adoption of telemedicine, healthcare companies are starting to see the benefits. For patients with chronic conditions, doctors and nurses can use telemedicine solutions to keep track of the condition more closely. Acts of preventive medicine such as this have the ability to significantly reduce healthcare costs over time.

Although the technology for telemedicine has been in place for quite a while, these roadblocks have been standing in the way of its rapid adoption. Now that these roadblocks are being torn down, the potential for advancement of telemedicine is almost limitless.

What’s more exciting than the increased adoption of telemedicine is the innovation that will most likely follow. The next generation of telemedicine will automate and streamline many process and connect many different systems, making a more efficient, effective and streamlined healthcare experience.

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