Friday, June 14, 2013

ATA Policy Summit: Telemedicine Policy Topics Ripped from the Headlines

The program for the ATA Federal Telemedicine Policy Summit (June 27-28 in Washington, DC) is designed to give you insider perspective on the big policy issues facing remote healthcare. 

We all know what these policy hot topics are—they’re splayed throughout the industry press on a daily basis. In a sense, the program for the Policy Summit is ripped from the headlines.  If it’s in the telehealth news, we’re talking about it at the Summit.  

Our speakers, all leading figures in federal telehealth policy, will help you make sense of the news, providing valuable, operational insight in how these issues are creating new opportunities and challenges for you and your organization.   

Here are just a few examples:

Telemedicine More Prevalent in Urban, Wealthy Populace, Census Data Shows
(FierceGovernmentIT, June 12, 2013)
Using telemedicine to better reach underserved patient populations is an ongoing challenge. The alignment of government resources, including the funding of personnel, networks, resource centers and safety net providers is critical for achieving healthcare equity. The ATA Federal Telemedicine Policy Summit includes a presentation by the head of the HRSA, the federal agency charged with funding much of the infrastructure of telehealth.
Mary Wakefield, PhD, RNAdministrator, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesDr. Wakefield will speak Thursday, June 27, 2:45pm – 3:15pm

FDA, Facing Cybersecurity Threats, Tightens Medical-Device Standards 
(Washington Post, June 13, 2013)
The ATA Federal Policy Summit includes two presentations focused on the increasingly important topic of cybersecurity and device regulation. Speakers will outline best practices for health data security as well as the future of regulating consumer devices that are used for healthcare functions.
Gavin W. O’BrienProject Manager for the National Cybersecurity Center of ExcellenceNational Institutes of Standards and Technology Mr. O’Brien speaks Thursday, June 27, 3:45pm – 4:15pm 
Jeffrey Shuren, MD, JDDirector of the Center for Devices and Radiological HealthU.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Shuren speaks Friday, June 28, 10:45am – 11:15am 

For Ailing Vets in Rural Areas, Telemedicine Can Be the Cure 
(National Public Radio, May 28, 2013)
Veterans Affairs is the largest single healthcare provider in the United States and an innovator in using telemedicine to serve a large, disparate patient population. The ATA Federal Telemedicine Policy Summit features one of the chief architects of the VA telehealth programs. 
Adam Darkins, MD, MPHM, FRCSChief Consultant for Telehealth ServicesVeteran’s Health AdministrationDr. Darkins speaks Friday, June 28, 10:15am – 10:45am

Licensing Woes Make Inter-State Telemedicine a Headache 
(EHR Intelligence, June 6, 2013)
America’s state-based licensing system limits providers’ scope of practice and restricts patient access to the best care.  The ATA Federal Telemedicine Policy Summit explores solutions to this issue with a presentation by a leading Congressional voice for licensure reform—and the lead author of both the 2011 STEP Act and 2013 VETS Act.
U.S. Congressman, Glenn Thompson Pennsylvania, 5th DistrictU.S. House of RepresentativesRepresentative Thompson speaks Thursday, June 27, 4:30pm – 5:00pm

Of course, this is just a small sample of the speakers who will speak at the Forum. Our list of presenters is truly phenomenonal, with several Congressmen, an FCC Commissioner, the HRSA Adminsitrator and more leading health policy experts.  For a full list of confirmed speakers, please visit

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Great Month for Telemedicine

Two major developments this week point out the rapidly evolving market in telemedicine both between medical centers and out to consumers.
For the first time, the American Heart and Stroke Association issued new guidelines for early stroke treatment endorsing the use of telemedicine.  The guidelines support the development of regional networks of stroke centers, acute stroke-ready hospitals and community hospitals.  The guidelines are published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.  This is an important and timely development and another sign that leading disease and patient groups are taking up the call for more widespread use of telemedicine.  Legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) calls for Medicare reimbursement of telestroke services.
Also for the first time a major U.S. insurer is paying for online visits with a physician.  Wellpoint, a major private insurer in the U.S. is starting to pay physicians for video visits with patients in or outside their practices.  The company operates through a number of subsidiaries throughout the United States and covers over 60 million individuals.  The program starts out in California and Ohio early this year and will expand to other states later.  Covered patients can go to a web site to view doctors’ biographies and credentials and pay co-fees and submit claims based on their plans. The site is located at

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Wish We Could Just Talk About Design

In a recent column in the New York Times Ray Bilton wrote about his experience at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and the changed emphasis of the products on display away from technical specifications to design elements.  He states: “I don’t care about the technology inside the technology anymore. It just works — for the most part — and therefore consumers no longer need to think about it.”
I also attended CES and was struck with the growing number of over-the-counter consumer health devices but was struck with how many of them were sleek and catchy but had virtually no real usefullness for personal or clinical healthcare.  Wearing a band around your wrist that flashes your pulse count is not what I would think is a health aid.  But at least it was really good looking and didn't need a long user guide to understand it.
We are just starting to see the same evolution for telemedicine.  Large telehealth programs and private, remote medical service providers are just starting to move away from needing a full engineering staff to operate their interactive networks.  It’s not as easy as dialing a phone yet - but we are getting close.
The growing number of health providers using such consumer-friendly technologies as Skype and FaceTime for consultations have been unfortunately restrained by legal fears of violating privacy laws.  I’m not giving any application the all clear but - just for the record - HIPAA does not certify products.  There is no such thing as a device being “not HIPAA compliant.”  Technical, consultant and lawyer-fed hyperbole about such issues are becoming one of the biggest impediments to expanding healthcare.

I long for the day when we talk only about sleek designs and friendly provider and patient interfaces for real telemedicine devices and not just pixels, privacy and transmission speeds.