Live from the American Telemedicine Association Conference – A Participant’s Take

The American Telemedicine Association will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. With the advances in broadband and usage of communication and internet technology since the ATA’s founding in 1993, I was curious as to why adoption of telehealth/telecare/telemedicine has not been universal. This morning, at the ATA conference in San Jose, some industry experts gave their take on that conundrum.

Basically the thought leaders agreed that telehealth is a market in transition, and that we are moving from connecting places to connecting people. Adoption, the experts say, is the biggest hurdle, since telehealth and telecare need to be embedded into the system, and not laid on top of it, or used next to it.

The goal is “anytime, anywhere healthcare” and the “patients” become consumers in an integrated, embedded model where wellness is the focus, and not sickness. Does that not sound wonderful?

The trends? This will not surprise folks who work in private duty/private pay, but the trend is for chronic disease management, and bringing it all home.

The biggest challenge? Institutional healthcare and the current fragmented system.

In the U.S., we are developing islands of expensive information, where in most of the rest of the world the focus is on cradle-to-grave care. We are stuck, in the U.S., on cost and measuring outcomes when we should be focused on results and innovation. Reimbursement is, of course, at the heart of why telehealth is not more widely used in the U.S. At the current time, it is estimated that there is a gap between current capacity and utilization that is 50 times wide. Meaning we have 50 times the capacity and are not utilizing it.

So, what do we need to do? Education and collaboration were suggested. Also, a realization that the drivers for health outcomes are many times related to genes, the environment and lifestyle. Focusing on the individual at the heart of making a change is one thing that may drive more usage of telehealth and telemedicine and telecare.