5 questions with ATA president Ed Brown
May 10, 2013 in Medical Technology
American Telemedicine Association President-Elect Ed Brown, MD is the founder and CEO of Ontario Telemedicine Network in Canada. He is an emergency physician who studied mathematics and engineering before embarking on his medical career. Healthcare IT News caught up with him at the recent ATA conference in Austin, Texas, to talk with him about the state of telemedicine and what he envisions it will be in the coming years.
Q. Looking back 10 years ago, what was telemedicine like then compared with today?
A. How about I go back 40 years? Telemedicine has been in a long cycle. I think it’s a 50-year revolution we’re in the middle of. Forty years ago it started out as an oddity, a rarity. Some people had some ideas of using video-conferencing technology for rural healthcare. We used hardware-based devices and satellite systems and expensive private networks. It kind of worked, but it wasn’t ready to grow where it should. Over time we became pretty good at the rural stuff. What you’re seeing now in the last several years is kind is kind of a new wave of activity and a new wave of success around telemedicine and virtual healthcare. You’ve got the Internet. People understand PCs, everyone’s got a smartphone. We’re starting to see mHealth and wireless health. We’re starting to see all the things that are driving telemedicine to the next level, making it cheaper, better and faster. There is also a lot of public awareness. So people get it. They have the smartphone in their hand, and they understand what it can do for them. People are understanding the technology and are beginning to implement it really at a deeper level.
[Watch the interview: Edward Brown on the ‘long cycle’ of telemedicine.]
Q. It’s not just about video-conferencing anymore, not just about consulting a doctor. Do you think most people get that?
A. The word telemedicine sometime can be a bit confusing because it doesn’t have a real clear definition. Sometimes I call it virtual healthcare because it’s really about all the different things you can do to support your healthcare over a distance. It’s about collaboration. It’s about remote monitoring. It is even e-consult, secure email. These are all things that are used to support patient care. To me, that’s all part of the telemedicine that we’re developing.
Q. What is your biggest hope for telemedicine?
A. My hope is pretty simple. You know my passion is about improving healthcare. I think where we’re going in healthcare – basically every single new program or initiative needs to think about telemedicine, how virtual healthcare technologies can support their program because it’s all about better quality of care. It’s all about better value in care and better health for populations. I think if people start to understand the role of virtual healthcare, you will see it in every single program out there.
Q. What is atop your agenda as the new president of the ATA?