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Telemedicine on Tap: ATA Readies for Telehealth 2.0

The American Telemedicine Association is unveiling a new format for its annual conference and exhibition, scheduled for April 23-25 in Orlando. The goal is to look past potential and give providers actionable tools to integrate new technology.

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- With HIMSS17 in the rear-view mirror, healthcare providers are now setting their sights on the American Telemedicine Association’s Telehealth 2.0 conference next month. But don’t expect the same old news on pilot projects and real-world potential.

With states announcing new telehealth legislation almost weekly and new platforms sprouting up just as quickly, the ATA is embarking on a five-year plan to shift from education to integration. The time has come, says CEO Jon Linkous, to move past potential and show that the industry is working.

“It’s a pretty significant change,” Linkous says. With the “acceleration of the industry, there’s a need for a more solutions-based environment.”

Telehealth 2.0, scheduled to take place April 23-25 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, is designed to give providers the tools and directions to incorporate telemedicine into the clinical environment. Whereas the ATA had focused in past conferences on educating conference-goers on the telehealth industry, this event shifts focus to issues like ROI, practice guidelines and integration.

Linkous says the telehealth ecosystem has moved beyond that stage where healthcare providers are learning about new technology. Now, those providers have adopted telehealth and want to know how to use it better. They want to know how to integrate with their EMR platforms, carve out specialty telemedicine services, adopt artificial intelligence tools, craft BYOD policies and improve care management.

The conference will also continue a discussion that Linkous hyped in opening the ATA’s Fall Forum last September in New Orleans.

“The payment question is different than it used to be,” he says. With fee-for-service healthcare slowly being phased out, providers have to learn how to incorporate telemedicine into value-based care. That means understanding the shifting value proposition in healthcare, and dealing with expected changes to both Medicare and Medicaid.

Linkous also expects a lot of discussion on consumer-facing healthcare, whether it’s through direct-to-consumer telehealth or portals and mHealth apps.

“We’re changing the way healthcare is delivered,” he says. “Convenience has become a driver for healthcare, and that’s something many [providers] hadn’t thought about before.”

The ATA has lined up two keynote speakers that Linkous says will highlight the changing dynamics of telemedicine. Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman will highlight the changing economic landscape, while former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of the Kennedy Forum and co-founder of One Mind for Research, will discuss the challenges of delivering healthcare to those in need.

“Technology is a tool, but the focus of telehealth should be on the human touch,” Linkous says.

He also expects Telehealth 2.0 to be a showcase of health systems that have learned how best to use connected and digital health technology, from Mercy Health’s virtual hospital in St. Louis to Avera Health’s eCare platform spread across much of the upper Midwest states, as well as health systems like Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, Intermountain Health and UPMC.

“We’re at a point where we need to de-emphasize academics and focus on providing a toolkit,” Linkous says. 

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