Industry executives discussing telemedicine "Policy Priorities" here at #ATA2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Here at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) 2012 annual conference, everyone is talking about health policy. One of the last sessions this year was the Industry Executive Panel 9: Policy Priorities. What policy issues are most critical? What kind of change do we need? Participants included: Verizon, Intel, Aligne Health Resources, and UnitedHealth Group.

Reimbursement is a recurrent theme that revolves around telemedicine. Who should be paying for these types of services? Right now, some payors are involved, but we need to see to see large employers getting involved since telemedicine is more cost-effective and efficient.

Telemedicine is not the current standard of care because patients still want the live interaction with their physicians. However, newer digital tools are overcoming certain barriers that are allowing physicians to have meaningful interactions with patients. Plus, non face-to-face care can be safer for patients who are at risk of catching dangerous infections in the clinical setting.

Interstate medical licensure is another barrier in the United States for physicians who want to engage in telemedicine. Will we see a national telemedicine license someday? Given that every state has different requirements and regulations around medical licensure, I'm not too sure that we'll see this anytime in the near future. I don't think the state licensing boards want to move in this direction. But then again, the VA Health System has embraced the concept of a national medical license by allowing physicians to provide care to veterans as long as they have an active medical license in some state. Perhaps the short-term solution is a national database of telemedicine credentialing for patients covered through government insurance plans.
As health care delivery evolves into a consumer-centric model, we are seeing more patients enrolling in high-deductible plans. These are less expensive for healthy people who are at low risk of developing health problems. How does telemedicine fit for these patients?

When it comes to reimbursement, we're finding that hospitals are being more proactive to avoid preventable readmissions. Here, home monitoring technologies are being employed to allow clinicians to guide patients at home with disease self-management. Many patients can't afford novel digital home monitoring tools, but these resources can significantly decrease overall healthcare costs.

How about the role of the FDA, the ONC, and other government regulatory bodies? What should they be doing to promote patient safety in the setting of telemedicine? We're also surrounded by privacy and security concerns around HIPAA regulations. The technology is moving so fast that the regulatory bodies are not able to keep up with all the changes. Perhaps we need international collaboration to remove the barriers that prevent clinicians from treating patients around the world through the use of telecommunication technologies.

ATA 2012
Industry Executive Panel 9: Policy Priorities
5/1/2012 at 4:15 pm

Andrew Mekelburg
VP Federal Government Relations
Mark Blatt, MD
Director, Healthcare Industry Solutions 
Aligne Health Resources
John R. Palumbo
President and Chief Operating Officer 
UnitedHealth Group
Pramod Gaur, PhD
Vice President, Telehealth

ATA12 coverage is sponsored by HP. HP’s extensive portfolio of products, solutions, services and relationships can help your healthcare organization achieve quality business practices and provide quality patient care.


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Dr. Joseph Kim is the founder of, an independent website owned and operated by Dr. Kim. He is also the President of MCM Education, a professional medical education and publishing company that develops continuing medical education (CME) activities in joint sponsorship with medical universities, hospitals, and medical associations.

Dr. Kim is a digital entrepreneur and technologist who has a passion for health information technology, mobile health, and social media. He frequently speaks at conferences about non-clinical careers for physicians, continuing medical education, mobile health technology, and social media in medicine. He is a regular contributor for the Physician Executive Journal, the official journal of the American College of Physician Executives.

Dr. Kim holds a bachelor of science in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a doctorate of medicine from the University of Arkansas College of Medicine, and a master of public health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health.
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