Monday, October 5, 2009

Are We Walking-the-Walk?

An important question that was asked at the first meeting of the ATA’s new Institutional Council was whether any of the institutions provided telemedicine as part of the employee benefits for their own organizations. Scott Simmons of the University of Miami reported on their progress in extending telemedicine for employees of the University’s Medical Center. Someone mentioned that Cisco has started such a demonstration for their employees. But no other institution raised their hand.

Thus, Walk-the-Walk was born. Walk-the-Walk is a challenge to every organization that belongs to ATA, institution and corporation, to include telemedicine benefits for your own employees. It may not be comprehensive for all health services but at least provide some form of benefit should be provided - if not by us then who?

Some organizations may think they are too small; others may face challenges with their established health care providers or insurers. But it is surprising what can be done.

Even a small staff with limited resources can make a start. Within ATA, we are trying out an agreement with a local practice, DocTalker, to provide brief telephone-based consultations for ATA staff. This is provided in addition to our regular health insurance and allows a staff member to communicate with a health provider, remotely and almost immediately, at any time. Based on an initial in-person consultation, calls are usually no more than 15 minutes long and provided at a very inexpensive rate. In addition to providing telemedicine to employees of ATA, it may reduce use of more expensive urgent care centers and emergency rooms - and may even reduce our insurance premiums.

So, over the next year let us know if your organization starts to offer such benefits. We hope to keep track of the progress.

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