Technology chief Chopra calls for innovation

By Eric Wicklund
08:46 AM

The American Telemedicine Association closed out its three-day international meeting and exposition Tuesday with a rallying cry from the White House.

That message was delivered by Aneesh Chopra, President Barack Obama’s federal Chief Technology Officer, who urged the attendees to embrace innovation – especially in healthcare.

“Washington does not have a monopoly on great ideas,” he said.

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In a roughly 45-minute speech delivered to a packed audience at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, Chopra ticked off a number of newly launched federal efforts to reward entrepreneurship, collaboration and transparency, with a focus on rapid results. He said the White House has made it a priority to improve healthcare through the use of IT tools like cloud computing and mobile communications.

Among the examples he cited were the volunteer-driven text4baby campaign; a Case Western University project in Cleveland to link houses in the surrounding neighborhood to a telehealth network; the work of American Well, a Boston-based developer of Web-based doctor-patient visits; and Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a program developer at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine to treat chronic and complex diseases in rural and underserved areas of the state.

Chopra also announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is “actively working” to address the Joint Commission Standards for Credentialing and Privileging – in particular, the issue of credentialing healthcare workers involved in telehealth projects that stretch across state borders, an ongoing issue that has, in the past, been hotly debated between CMS and ATA officials.

Among other federal efforts, Chopra pointed to the i6 Challenge, an initiative announced by the White House last month that will award $1 million apiece to six innovative proposals derived from the nation’s university system, as well as a federal proposal to create a telemedicine-equipped emergency medical response team to aid in global disaster relief missions.

In addition, Chopra called attention to the Department of Agriculture's new “Power of Telemedicine” Web discussion. Organized by Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, the blog is designed to collect public comments on telemedicine and telehealth.

Chopra’s speech and subsequent tour of the show floor concluded what ATA officials are calling the most successful of their 15 conferences so far. According to outgoing ATA President Karen Rheuban, the conference attracted more than 3,100 registrants, a 25 percent increase over last year’s total, and doubled the size of its show floor.

The organization also highlighted its connections with Project HOPE – the international health foundation’s president and CEO, John P. Howe III, described the organization’s telehealth capabilities during a plenary speech – and signed a collaboration agreement with the Australasian Telemedicine Society.


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