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Making it Work: Telehealth Insights for ATA

Early last May, SYKES joined over 250 exhibitors at the largest ATA (American Telemedicine Association) conference to date. For many thought leaders within the Telehealth and Telemedicine fields, the ATA  conference provides the perfect opportunity to participate in the evolution of healthcare, as leading innovators and cutting-edge technologies come together to expand access to primary and specialty care as well as chronic disease management.  While the conference does a great job of building up the hype, attendees are often left with the same unanswered question, when will Telehealth and Telemedicine be widely accepted and reimbursed practices?

I believe the grand promise of this field will be realized incrementally.  After attending this year’s event, it was obvious that, like an old car, telehealth is being sold in parts or “care specialties”.  Some fieldss of telemedicine like radiology and neurology are far ahead of other medical specialties that are in their infancy, like cardiology.  From the telehealth side, for practices like remote patient monitoring, reimbursement is holding up adoption by health systems, but is being utilized by insurers and home care agencies with private funding sources.  Until the legal credentialing and reimbursement issues can be addressed, the adoption of telemedicine will continue to lag behind the rapid advancement of technology.  Once return of investment and improved patient outcome data are readily available, reimbursement should follow close behind.

In one of ATA’s panel held discussions, Jim Murphy, Vice P:resident of Healthcare Strategy for SYKES Assistance Services, noted that the telemedicine and health IT camps need to develop a shared partnership before the quality of healthcare can be improved.  Jim also mentioned that, “Privacy, security, data integrity, and interoperability are all part of the health IT world, but they will eventually become home to the telemedicine world.”  The panel projected that by 2015, many electronic medical record (EMR) vendors will have interfaces for telemedicine applications, but they will require collaboration with health IT to develop national standards.*

Many of ATA’s attendees, are currently working to eliminate Telemedicine and Telehealth barriers so that further innovation can be made.  While this process has been slow at times, our healthcare system is evolving.  After all, change may not be easy, but it is inevitable.

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