ATA's Ed Brown: Continued awareness will drive telemedicine

Every new healthcare program or initiative should be approached with a telemedicine angle in mind, according to American Telemedicine Association President-Elect Ed Brown. Speaking with Healthcare IT News at the ATA's annual conference in Austin, Texas, last week, Brown said that as more people understand the value technology brings to virtual health efforts, the more widespread telemedicine will become.

"We're starting to see all the things that are driving telemedicine to the next level, making it cheaper, better and faster," Brown said. "There is also a lot of public awareness. So people get it. They have the smartphone in their hand, and they understand what it can do for them."

To that end, Brown said the main focus of his efforts at ATA will be continued awareness, primarily through advocacy and policy. He pointed out that 18 states currently have laws on the books requiring private insurers to pay for telemedicine coverage, while another 30 have similar legislation being developed.

"[T]here's a huge wave of activity out there and an understanding of just how important telemedicine is," Brown said.

Ryan Spaulding, director of telemedicine and telehealth at the University of Kansas Medical Center, talked about creating a Meaningful Use-like program for telemedicine during a public policy discussion at the ATA meeting last week. He urged the organization to take such a proposal to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying that the industry lacks formal authority at the federal level.

Meanwhile, in an editorial published this month in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health, Rashid L. Bashshur, director of telemedicine at the University of Michigan Health System, said that now is the time to establish telemedicine as "integral" to care efforts, particularly in conjunction with other information technologies like electronic and personal health records.

To learn more:
- read the full Healthcare IT News interview