International forum to survey telemedicine's expanding landscape

Held in conjunction with the Pediatric Telehealth Colloquium, the International Telemedicine Forum takes place from 2-3 p.m. Sunday
By Jeff Rowe
02:06 PM


AUSTIN, TX – Needless to say, attendees at the 2013 ATA International Meeting & Trade Show can expect to hear a lot about the past year's developments in telemedicine across the country. But as with most things technological, borders have become porous and distances short as telemedicine has spread around the world.  

So at the International Telemedicine Forum (ITF) taking place from 2-3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, in Room 12A/B on the fourth floor, attendees will get a snapshot of how telemedicine is having an impact well outside the United States.

According to Maureen McGrath, director of ATA program services, the ITF has traditionally been structured to reflect the developments that have occurred in particularly active regions.

After all, she said, "there are a lot of hot spots for telemedicine around the world, right now – Australia, India, Latin America."

This year, Latin America will get the lion's share of attention at the ITF.  The forum will be presented in conjunction with the ATA Pediatric Telehealth Colloquium, with speakers to include Todd Hovey, managing director of the Los Angeles-based Lopez Family Foundation; Stuart E. Siegel, MD, director of the Center for International Health at Children's Hospital Los Angeles; and Silvio Vega, MD, medical director of the Pananmanian Telemedicine and Telehealth Program.

The program will focus on the work of the Lopez Family Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that advocates and invests in policies and programs in Latin American communities. Over the last three years the organization has launched telemedicine centers in two high-need hospitals in Puerto Rico, constructed a pediatric telemedicine clinic in Panama, and is planning on expanding into other Latin American nations.

Of course, "domestic" telemedicine will be the primary focus of the conference, which begins Saturday, May 4, with two full-day professional development certificate courses, and continues on Sunday morning with several half-day courses.

From broadly based courses that take an in-depth look at the details of creating a telemedicine program to courses examining legal issues, telemedicine business processes and specific uses of telemedicine in such specialties as opthalmology and chronic disease management, these courses are designed to give attendees both the fundamental principles of telemedicine and some best case practices.

For attendees at ATA 2013 who are still in the preliminary stages of launching a telemedicine program, one program of particular interest may be "The Business of Telehealth: What You Need to Know to Start a Telehealth Program," which will take place on Sunday, May 5, from 8-11 a.m.

According to Alexis Gilroy, JD, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP and one of the program's presenters, the technological advances of recent years have had a dramatic impact on healthcare delivery.

"The spread of EHRs is in the process of connecting everybody to everybody," she said, "so providers must use technology to deliver care more efficiently."

At the same time, she noted that the regulatory landscape is still in a significant state of flux, and part of the Sunday morning program will include a review from experts as to what telemedicine newcomers should expect.

Also on Sunday morning will be the annual meetings of the ATA Industry and Institutional councils, followed by a joint luncheon.  

As Ben Forstag, ATA's senior director of communications, explained, the ATA is somewhat unique in that it serves both a large number of institutional, nonprofit healthcare providers – think the Mayo and Cleveland clinics and the University of Tuscon – as well as an equally large number of industry members, ranging from Siemens and Bosch down to smaller, "Mom and Pop" level equipment providers. 

Both the Industry and Institutional councils meet periodically throughout the year, and at the annual meeting they come together to discuss emerging overlapping issues. Among this year's issues, Forstag said, are licensure challenges for providers who are seeking to expand the range of their telemedicine services and the ongoing development of best care and other standards.

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