ATA kicks off in Austin

May 5, 2013 in Medical Technology

The American Telemedicine Association’s 18th Annual International Meeting Trade Show kicked off with a flourish on Sunday in Austin, Texas – a flourish of bagpipes.

ATA President Stewart Ferguson, chief information officer of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, Alaska, took the stage of the opening plenary decked out in a Scottish kilt and sporran.

It was his contribution, Ferguson joked, to the unofficial motto of the conference’s host city: “Keep Austin Weird”

But there was nothing weird or at all surprising about the news he had to relay.

Even though hurdles related to reimbursement and licensure continue to be thorny issues for remote care delivery, said Ferguson, these days “we pretty much know how to do telemedicine.”


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Now, he said, “the challenge is how to do it at scale.”

The ATA has spent the past year working to drive adoption of telemedicine, create consumer awareness and prepare for rapid change as these new care models are embraced, said Ferguson.

That change is well on its way: consider the fact that in 2012 some 30 states introduced telemedicine related bills.

To make the most of it, Ferguson said there’s been focused efforts to strengthen ATA. The past year has seen a 20 percent increase in annual revenue and a 36 percent growth in staff. This year’s meeting and trade show is the biggest yet.

Indeed, as ATA Vice President Yulun Wang, chairman and CEO of InTouch Health, announced, it’s been “another record growth year,” with attendance at the 2013 show surpassing 5,000 people – who will attend more than 500 educational sessions, covering every facet of telemedicine – for the first time ever.

A ‘mainstay’ of care delivery

The plenary keynote speaker, Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy, offered some object lessons on the enormous impact telemedicine is starting to have on the way care is delivered.

Mercy, one of the largest Catholic healthcare systems in the U.S. – with urban and rural facilities across Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas – has some things to teach about incorporating telemedicine into a large network.

In 2012 Mercy cared for more than 3 million individuals, Britton pointed out – but only a few hundred thousand of those spent the night in the hospital.

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