Telemedicine Takes Center Stage in Baltimore

Today, it’s estimated that more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in or near a major urban area. For those of us who do, seeing a doctor is relatively easy—there are multiple specialists to choose from, and checkups are something we can do on our lunch break.

But what about the other half of the planet? Seeing a medical specialist for a routine checkup is a major undertaking–in some cases requiring long-distance travel.

Enter telemedicine, a rapidly-growing field that allows people to connect with doctors virtually, often using live video and instant messaging. Telemedicine also allows doctors to connect with their colleagues over video conferencing.

Last month, I got the chance to attend the annual American Telemedicine Association conference in Baltimore. This year’s show had nearly 5,000 attendees and 250 vendors in the exhibit hall (their largest exhibitor showcase to date). At the show, the ATA unveiled its new slogan, “Connected to Care,” a theme that resonated throughout the four-day show.

American Telemedicine Association Conference 2014

I attended some fantastic sessions from leaders in the field of telemedicine, notably from global humanitarian and Harvard University professor Dr. Paul Farmer, United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley and Jonathan Woodson, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Farmer has done extensive work in Rwanda and Haiti, two countries that have been in dire need of improved medical care. He advocates for telemedicine as a way to bring effective care to areas that are underserved by onsite doctors. To drive his point home, he told the story of Joseph, a patient whose access to care helped him transition from untreatable to treatable.

American Telemedicine Association Conference 2014

United Health Group CEO Hemsley runs one of the world’s largest health insurance companies, employing more than 133,000 people worldwide, in charge of providing insurance to some 70 million people. The United Health Group holds dozens of patents on data analytics, and has a strong interest in telemedicine, Hemsley said.

Going forward, Hemsley said his company would apply those analytics capabilities to study patient claim data to determine where there might be opportunities to intervene with a patient earlier, to improve quality of care for the patient while reducing overall costs.

The Defense Department’s Woodson described the challenge of providing healthcare to a global military force. Dr. Woodson said he believed that telehealth would serve as a strategic enabler of global health engagement.

At ATA, Avaya showcased its video collaboration solutions–focusing on Avaya Scopia—notably how the software can integrate with telemedicine cart providers such as Enovate and remote units, like GlobalMed’s Transportable Exam Station.

We also showed off Avaya One-Touch Video, demonstrating how video could be used to connect a patient with a pool of resources virtually. Avaya also showcased its healthcare-focused proactive outbound solutions, which doctors use to gather information from a patient after an office visit, using voice, email or SMS.

Learn more about the American Telemedicine Association by visiting their web site: http://www.americantelemed.org.

To learn more about Avaya’s products and solutions for the healthcare industry, please visit our Health Care page to learn more.

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