Friday, December 30, 2011

Standing at the Threshold of 2012

It’s been a great year. 2011 left many old timers in telemedicine enjoying the newfound enthusiasm about telemedicine, telehealth and all the other related expressions (mHealth, e-health, etc.) that describe this field. Bells were pealing. Hypers were hyping. Prognosticators were predicting. We were overwhelmed with an ocean of hullabaloo about the wonders of telecommunications technology and health care. We were awash with inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and captains of other industries leaping into the frenzy like groups of whirling dervishes all vying to profess the most superlative expectation. Truly it is wonderful to see.

Woo hoo!

Back on earth the day-to-day reality for telemedicine remains on delivering care, modifying clinical processes, changing public policy and, oh yes, making a profit. Nevertheless, I believe we stand in December 2011 at a significantly different place than last December. The change is not so much in the hype or even the numbers (although they are significant) but that we have witnessed a fundamental shift in the landscape, leaving this field poised for enormous change during the twelve to twenty four months ahead.

Special thanks is deserved to three groups that have made all of this possible. First, ATA’s Board of Directors reflects the dramatic shift in attention toward telemedicine with a unique mix of clinicians that provide health care through telemedicine joined by several captains of industry, private payers, government agencies and non-profit groups from the United States and other countries. Under the leadership of Dr. Bernard Harris the Board has provided guidance and unwavering support for ATA as we sail ahead. Second, my thanks to the hundreds of volunteer leaders and thousands of members of ATA whose enthusiasm, hard work and insights have contributed both to ATA’s success and the tremendous progress for telemedicine this year. Finally, the ATA staff, a small band of incredibly talented, dedicated and very hard working group of professionals. Few in the Association business can believe that a staff of only eleven full time employees manages all of ATA. Thanks to the use of a number of great contractors and innovative use of technology, the staff has been able to make ATA one of the fastest growing Associations in the country and an effective, widely recognized leader in health care throughout the world.

From the start, a key value of this Association has been to focus on transformation and not building castles. But it still amazes me that, from a small group of idealists and true believers that gathered together in 1993, ATA is on the verge of helping to transform the world of healthcare.

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