ATA panelists: Telemedicine and health IT need to work together
The telemedicine and health IT camps need to overcome their traditional way of operating in silos and develop partnerships to make a significant impact on improving the quality of care in the healthcare system.
If anyone is reaching out, however, it’s the telemedicine side, according to four industry executive panelists at this week’s American Telemedicine Association 2012 Conference and Exhibition in San Jose, Calif. The Monday afternoon panel discussed whether there is any synergy or required partnerships between telemedicine and health IT.
AT&T has a holistic and inclusive view of all healthcare technologies, services and products, with telehealth having fewer components, said Ed Simcox, director of AT&T’s telehealth solutions. “Telehealth is a way to execute on old visions around delivering care for our customers,” he said.
With many emerging telehealth projects being proposed by evangelists within practitioner community, Simcox said it’s important to build the bridge between telehealth and health IT by developing a level of trust and sharing lessons learned.
Telehealth can learn from electronic medical record (EMR) vendors in the areas of financial sustainability, budgeting and other economic factors, the need for standards and overcoming cultural and generational resistance to technologies.
Simcox advised attendees to “keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in telehealth” on the state and federal levels and be involved in special interest groups and organizations such as the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) to start raising awareness of the importance of telehealth. “If we wait for other organizations, we’re going to wait a long time,” he said.
Hon Pak, MD, FAAD, CEO of Diversinet, pointed out that the fact that EHR vendors are not at the ATA 2012 conference “says something.”
“Politically, commercially – it’s an issue,” he added. He said that for his company, EHRs, mobility and health information exchange must be integrated and part of the healthcare ecosystem for the last mile of care coordination.
While telemedicine is critical, it is part of a large strategic movement, Pak said. He contends that if the telehealth community adds “significant value,” the health IT community will come. Telehealth already has successes in mobile health, engaging patients, changing behaviors and amassing data. These areas represent where telehealth providers can highlight their value.
Michael Lemnitzer, CPA, senior director of strategic business development for BU Connected Care for Philips Home Healthcare Solutions, said his company is “working aggressively” with EHR vendors to develop interfaces, given that 90 percent of the company’s contracts require an interface before the customer will sign on. “It has become very critical,” he said.