ATA Looks to New Forum to Connect the Telemedicine Dots
Some people probably think the American Telemedicine Association is simply an organization of vendors who sell equipment and medical devices. Actually, the membership is quite diverse and includes companies that employ or contract with healthcare professionals to deliver telemedicine services to patients and consumers.
Now the ATA is creating a new forum for these firms. Once the forum is underway, ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous says these companies will have an opportunity to come together, learn from each other and provide a collective voice on such issues as quality, reimbursement and patient satisfaction. Joe Peterson, CEO of Specialists on Call, has agreed to serve as the initial Chair of the group. Telemedicine is growing so quickly, and in so many different areas, that it's difficult to keep up with the market. But the ATA recognizes these companies are a "critical component in the future of healthcare delivery."
They will become even more important when Medicare eventually allows full reimbursement for doctors treating patients telemedically, no matter the location, and for store and forward services. This is a simplification of a government-ese description, but currently, reimbursements for telemedicine visits are limited to patients who are 25 miles outside a metropolitan area. And Medicare does not reimburse for the storing and forwarding of patient medical images unless you're a healthcare provider in Alaska or Hawaii.
Those of us in the industry know that the telemedicine industry would skyrocket if two things were to happen:
1. Medicare takes the leash off telemedicine and reimburses physicians for all forms at the same rate as in-person visits.
2. A solution for the problem of medical license silos is implemented. Right now, doctors need a medical license for every state they see and treat patients.