American Telemedicine Association to launch Telemedicine Consumer Awareness Initiative

Washington 01 April 2003The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has launched a Telemedicine Consumer Awareness Initiative at its Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. This initiative is aimed at educating consumers about the benefits of telemedicine in improving access to care by reducing geographic and time barriers, enhancing quality by establishing ongoing links between providers, and possibly containing cost by diminishing the need for travel and avoiding unnecessary duplication of service.

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Some of the telemedicine solutions already helping consumers include the remote monitoring of home-bound and elderly patients, remote diagnosis in radiology and pathology, the provision of second opinion by specialists, remote cardiography and foetal monitoring, child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health consultations, care for rural trauma patients, disaster response, and robotic surgery, to name a few.

The basic information technology that supports telemedicine technology has matured, and is now widely used in industry, commerce, education, transportation, and entertainment. Health care consumers may be the biggest driving force in the future expansion of telemedicine services. Consumer use of the Internet in search of health and health care information is increasing at a very high rate.

"The statistics are compelling", stated Joseph Kvedar, MD, Director of Telemedicine for Partners Healthcare Systems and ATA Board Member. "About 7,5 million patients consult the Internet every day looking for health information compared to only 3 million who visit a doctor in the office. Consumers are ready to utilise telemedicine when it is offered and employers are moving to include telemedicine in company health plans to cut costs and meet the needs of their employees."

ATA's Annual Meeting Opening Plenary featured the consumer perspective in the delivery of health care using telemedicine. A new Public Service Announcement, being developed by ATA and its Industry Advisory Board and produced by Partners Health Care, debuted at the session. Representatives from several consumer groups, including senior citizens, the disability community, correctional care, veterans, astronauts, children, nursing homes and chronic health care attended the Annual ATA Meeting in Orlando.

Speakers at the Plenary Session included Colonel Ronald K. Poropatich, MD, President of the American Telemedicine Association in Washington DC; Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, United States Surgeon General Commander, USPHS, Commissioned Corps Assistant Secretary for Health (Acting) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington DC; Gloria Wilder Brathwaite, MD, Director of Mobile Health Programmes, Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC; and Lieutenant General James Peake, Surgeon General, US Army, Commander, U.S. Army Medical Command in Falls Church, Virginia.

A major component of the initiative is a scientific documentation of telemedicine's benefits for consumers. The ATA's official Journal, Telemedicine Journal and e-Health, is dedicating a special issue to "Success Stories in Telemedicine", to correspond with the launching of this initiative. The Spring of 2003 issue of the Journal features concrete examples from several countries that demonstrate the effective use of telemedicine in addressing serious health care needs of consumers in a variety of settings.

The ATA exhibit hall featured products and services that are part of telemedicine programmes all over the world. In addition, agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Veterans Health Administration demonstrated the critical use of telemedicine in the nation's military and showcased technology transfer opportunities for consumers everywhere. More about the special Spring 2003 issue of the Telemedicine Journal and e-Health is available in this VMW issue's article Papers in Telemedicine Journal and e-Health prove telemedicine effectiveness.


Leslie Versweyveld

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