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ATA Seeks Input on New Telemedicine Practice Guidelines

The American Telemedicine Association has released draft guidelines for telestroke, pediatric telehealth and child and adolescent telemental health, in a move to help providers taking on new digital health platforms.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- The American Telemedicine Association is making three news sets on telemedicine practice guidelines available for public review, giving healthcare providers another resource as they move to launch new telehealth services.

The ATA is collecting comments on guidelines for telestroke, pediatric telehealth and child and adolescent telemental health through Friday, Feb. 17. Each document was developed over the past year by ATA workgroups, and are designed to help healthcare providers with both direct-to-consumer and provider-to-provider services.

The topics represent three of the fastest-growing telehealth uses over the past year. Telestroke, in particular, has seen a surge of interest with reports citing the technology’s ability to save lives and money and the emergence of “hub-and-spoke” telemedicine networks.

“These guidelines are provided for informational and educational purposes only and do not set a legal standard of medical or other healthcare,” each of the draft documents, running between 18 and 40 pages long, states. “They are intended to assist providers in delivering effective and safe medical care that is founded on current information, available resources, and patient needs. The practice guidelines and technical standards recognize that safe and effective practices require specific training, skills, and techniques, as described in each document, and are not a substitute for the independent health professional judgment, training, and skill of treating or consulting providers.”

The 24-year-old, Washington D.C.-based organization has been working to develop several resources for healthcare providers who are moving into the telehealth ecosystem. Two years ago, the ATA launched an accreditation program for telemedicine providers, with the goal of giving the industry its own seal of approval and reassuring payers that the service meets relevant standards and regulations.

“ATA’s Accreditation Program is designed to ensure transparency and patient safety as online services for healthcare proliferate,”  ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous said at the time. “We’ve seen an explosion of online healthcare service offerings in recent years, and a growing need to assure consumers they are making good choices. ATA’s Accreditation Program for Online Patient Consultations will provide benchmarks for organizations building an online practice.”

The organization also offers annual report cards grading each state on physician practice standards and licensure efforts and telemedicine coverage and reimbursement policies. Last year the ATA added a state-by-state analysis of telemental health standards and licensure.

The ATA isn’t the only organization looking to stake its claim to an ecosystem that encompasses telemedicine, telehealth, mHealth, eHealth, mobile healthcare, connected health and digital health.

This past year the American Medical Association first approved ethical guidelines for telemedicine [after more than a year of debate], then added policies to support physicians adopting mobile health apps and devices. The American Hospital Association also took up the cause, creating an online resource on local, state and national telehealth programs. With its Personal Connected Health Alliance, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is also active in the space, recently joining forces with the AMA and other groups to create an mHealth app evaluation and certification partnership.

ATA officials now are gearing up for their annual conference, rebooted this year as Telehealth 2.0 and taking place April 23-25 in Orlando. The events is scheduled to include a focus on women in telehealth, an interactive “Experience Zone” showcasing new technology, a special session for investors and the presentation of a Humanitarian Award to musician Carlos Santana for his work on the Santana Telehealth Project.

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