Monday, October 5, 2009

Maintaining Balance as We Leap Ahead

ATA was originally formed with an intention to be a medical society. Members were expected to submit their credentials upon joining ATA. This quickly changed as ATA's membership expanded to include both individuals and companies. In addition to individual and corporate membership categories, a new category, institutional membership, was created for hospitals and other non-profit healthcare organizations by then ATA President Ron Weinstein.

The governance of ATA has also reflected this diversity. Members of the board have included individual providers as well as representatives of corporations, governments, academia and provider groups.

Corporate Circle members formed an Industry Council to provide a forum for discussion as well as an advisory body for the Association. This year, ATA brought together representatives from our Institutional members into a new Institutional Council. Like the Industry Council, this new group will serve as a forum and advisory body for ATA. Members have suggested a number of topics for discussion including comparing various governance and administrative structures used for telemedicine operations within their institutions. A list serve and web page is under development and more discussion will be held before the group’s next meeting at ATA 2010.

In telemedicine, the players are always changing and growing. It is critical that ATA spread our wings to bring in new voices and new approaches to provide health care using telecommunications. In ATA's programs and in ATA's governance we strive to strike a balance between traditional hospital-based telemedicine networks; home telehealth organizations; outsourced, telemedicine-based specialty services; remote cardiac and vital sign monitoring companies, MHealth wireless service developers and a growing list of others.

Over the years people have sometimes come to me complaining that ATA was just a puppet of industry, or of the U.S. military, or academia, or the institution employing ATA's current President. It's always difficult maintaining a balance. But that is what ATA is all about. Many of the members and staff of ATA like to say we are part professional association, medical society and trade association.

But with all of the changes ATA has seen since its start in 1993, one thing has remained constant: all of ATA's members are focused on the individual and providing better care, whether it is a patient in another institution, a consumer using a wireless phone or someone homebound with a chronic disease. This is what sets us apart from such related fields as health informatics. With this shared commitment, together we can all learn a lot from each other.

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