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American Telemedicine Association Touts the Next Phase of Virtual Care

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   April 26, 2022

ATA2022, taking place next week in Boston, will give the organization an opportunity to plan the evolution of telehealth beyond the pandemic, and to talk about bringing virtual care to an 'inspirational level.'

Healthcare organizations are experimenting with new and innovative technologies and services as they move away from the pandemic and closer to value-based care, and a lot of those cool new ideas will be front at center at next week’s ATA2022 American Telemedicine Association conference in Boston.

Meeting in person for the first time in more then two years, telehealth advocates will have the chance to chat up what some are calling “Healthcare 3.0.” It describes an ecosystem based on lessons learned from the rapid uptake of virtual care during the COVID-19 emergency, the fast-moving field of consumer healthcare, and new advances in mobile technologies, including smart devices, sensors, and wearables.

This year’s theme is “Now what? Creating an Opportunity in a Time of Uncertainty.”

“It’s more than all of us asking, ‘What do we do now?’” says ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson. “People want to make sure that telehealth wasn’t just a pandemic-only tool.”

Indeed, as ATA2022 convenes next Sunday through Tuesday at the Boston Convention Center in the city’s trendy Seaport District, much of the talk is still centered on how to continue the momentum beyond COVID-19. The public health emergency caused by the pandemic is expected to end before the close of 2022, putting an end to many federal and state measures enacted during the PHE to improve access to and coverage of telehealth services. The ATA is among many organizations lobbying the federal government to extend or even make permanent those measures, but in the meanwhile providers and payers are uncertain as to how to chart a long-term telehealth strategy.

Johnson says the shift from in-person to virtual care during the pandemic – and the gradual shift back to a hybrid platform that combines the two – has proven that telehealth is viable, either as a supplement to improve in-person care or an alternative when barriers exist. Providers, she says, are now learning to “bake it into the process,” or integrate virtual and in-person services.

That’s especially apparent in the growth of remote patient monitoring programs that allow providers to monitor and communicate with patients at home, and in hospital-at-home concepts that allow hospitals to shift some acute care and ICU services to the home by combining RPM platforms and tools with in-person care.

More than one panel will discuss the RPM and Hospital at Home concept, with one focusing on the payer perspective and another on innovations in delivery and strategy. Other hot-button topics include telemental health, VC support for innovative start-ups, virtual care strategies for critical and emergency care, senior and pediatric care programs and policy issues such as cross-state licensing.

The ATA will also shine the spotlight on start-ups with its Telehealth Innovators Challenge, which enables nine “virtual care visionaries” in three categories – in-patient care solutions, the patient experience, and tools that deliver care – to showcase their ideas before a panel of judges.

Mond hopes the conference continues the evolution of telehealth. What once was considered a nice idea worthy of a pilot project is now a standard of care in many places, existing alongside or integrated with in-person care. Now, she says, the industry needs to bring it to an “inspirational level,” taking on the social determinants of health and addressing disparities in care.

And in that she hopes the industry will lead by example.

“This boils down to change management,” she says. “It’s time to take that next step.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.

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