ATA 2014 - Another Great Meeting!

It’s impossible to summarize the 2014 American Telemedicine Association meeting for those unable to attend as it was impossible to see the whole thing even for those attending! ATA grows every year and this year was no exception – it was huge and it was exciting!! Believe me when I say I got quite a cardiovascular workout running between sessions and up and down the stairs between the conference rooms and the Exhibit Hall – which was probably a half-mile long and filled with vendors!

The meeting was held in Baltimore, MD May 17-21and was the largest ever, with approximately 5000 attendees from 43 different countries. Attendees had a wide variety of backgrounds, with 20% Healthcare Providers/Administrators 6% Research/Academia, 23% Industry, 13% Technician/Engineer/IT, 21% C-Suite/Exec Management, and 17% Other (Consultants, Policy, Students, Finance, Legal). There were 18 pre-conference half and full-day courses on topics ranging from telemedicine basics to those dedicated to specific topics such as human factors, publishing in telemedicine, business, and legal perspectives and basics. There were nearly 600 presentations overall including breakout sessions, pre-meeting courses, ePosters, plenaries, and various dedicated special interest sessions.

The program had 14 tracks highlighting key elements of telemedicine today: Chronic Disease Management, Patient-Focused Care, Critical and Acute Care, Clinical Services Case Studies, Mental Health, Business Strategies, Operational Tools, Legal and Regulatory, Pediatrics,   Federal Programs, Research and Evaluation, ePosters, Industry Executive Sessions, and Innovative Spotlight Sessions. There were some dedicated telepathology talks within some of these tracks, but only a very small amount. The same was true for teleradiology, as opposed to previous years where there were many more in both of these areas. Perhaps these two areas are so mature that the ATA is the wrong place for presenters who are more commonly found at dedicated pathology and radiology society meetings.

As usual the keynote speakers were all healthcare visionaries and the talks were not only exciting but inspiring. Paul Farmer, PhD founding director of Partners In Health (PIH) spoke on “Telemedicine and the Future of Global Health”; Stephen Hemsley President and Chief Executive Officer of UnitedHealth Group discussed “Integrating Telemedicine”, Reed Tuckson, MD Managing Director Tuckson Health Connections, LLC, spoke on “Making the Possible Happen”; and Jonathan Woodson, MD Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs U.S. Department of Defense presented a very inspiring talk on “A Global Health Mission, A Smaller Military Force: The Promise and Opportunity for Telehealth in the Department of Defense”.

One short course of interest to those in the SWTRC region was “Legal & Regulatory Issues Part 2: Lessons Learned and Advice From Telehealth Pioneers” presented by the Four Corners Telehealth Consortium (FCTC) whose members have made significant progress in addressing legal and regulatory barriers. The FCTC serves as a model on how states with common issues and characteristics can create legal and regulatory change by combining forces and leveraging telemedicine expertise from a variety of programs and resources. The course provided lessons learned from the telemedicine pioneers who have worked together over the years to address interstate legal and regulatory challenges. Participants learned about specific language for seeking parity and other legislation, examples of successful interstate telemedicine collaborations, and methods to use to approach legislators with ideas for enhancing statewide telemedicine efforts. The session was moderated by Elizabeth A. Krupinski, PhD (University of Arizona) and the presenters were Mei Kwong, JD, Policy Associate, Center for Connected Health Policy Ronald Weinstein, MD (Director Arizona Telemedicine Program, University of Arizona), Dale Alverson, MD (Medical Director, Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research, University of New Mexico), Marta Petersen, MD (Vice-Chair and Professor of Dermatology, University of Utah) and Jay Shore, MD (Associate Medical Director, Colorado Physicians Health Program, Associate Professor, Psychiatry, Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, University of Colorado). If you are interested in the presentations and materials provided please contact me (krupinski@radiology.arizona.edu).

The ATA meeting would be nothing without the trade show and as usual it was the focus of action for many attendees as there was ample time to investigate and interact with the various vendors. The exhibit hall was the biggest ever with about 250 vendors covering all market segments of the telemedicine industry. For the second time, there was also a “Start Up Zone” for new technologies in the Exhibit Hall which was an interesting peek into the future of what’s to come in telemedicine. In addition to traditional vendors, there were representatives from various publishers, and service providers.

The National Telehealth Resource Centers also had a booth and traffic was high – people are clearly interested in starting up new programs or expanding existing ones. Of particular interest seemed to be cross/multi-state programs and figuring out how to make them work. GlobalMed (http://www.globalmed.com/) generously provided time at one of their booths for highlighting the TRCs and their resource efforts.

If you weren’t able to make the meeting you can go to the ATA website to get more details and there are transcripts of the meeting available for purchase (http://www.americantelemed.org/ata-2014/program-overview#.U4xAPii4OQE). More importantly – try to make it to ATA 2015 May 3-5 in Los Angeles!!

Dr. Elizabeth Krupinski presenting on the floor of the exhibit hall at the American Telemedicine Association Annual meeting on the value of the Telehealth Resource Centers

About the Author

Picture of  Elizabeth A. Krupinski, PhD

Elizabeth Krupinski, Ph.D. is a Professor at Emory University in the Department of Radiology & Imaging Sciences and is Vice-chair of Research. She is Associate Director of Evaluation for the Arizona Telemedicine Program and Director of the SWTRC. She has published extensively in these areas, and has presented at conferences nationally and internationally. She is Past Chair of the SPIE Medical Imaging Conference, Past President of the American Telemedicine Association, President of the Medical Image Perception Society, and Past Chair of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine. She serves on a number of editorial boards for both radiology and telemedicine journals and is the Co-Editor of the Journal of Telemedicine & Telecare.