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To the ATA, healthcare improvement is a global challenge

By Ben Forstag, Senior Director of Communications, ATA

Although nominally the American association for telemedicine, ATA is, in fact, an international organization, with interests, activities and members throughout the world.  ATA is the leading global telehealth association, and international activities are one of the organization's top priorities.

Ben Forstag

ATA's mission, as defined by its Board of Directors, is to improve the delivery of healthcare worldwide, through the promotion of telemedicine technologies. This is more than just an empty slogan – ATA's leadership resolutely believes that telemedicine is an essential tool for improving global health. The international spread of telecommunications services and the increased adoption of remote healthcare applications have created new possibilities for improving access to quality healthcare throughout the world. The ultimate goal of providing equitable healthcare – to both urban and rural populations, within developed and developing countries, across any demographic and geographic divide – is within reach if we leverage these new telemedicine technologies.
Ubiquitous, equitable healthcare via telemedicine is an ambitious, but attainable, goal. The means by which ATA attains this objective are outlined in the organization's mission statement. They include:

    -    Educating and engaging governments, non-governmental organizations, payers and the public about telemedicine. Internationally, ATA is working to establish collaborative trade agreements, cross-border licensure systems and inter-state payment mechanisms for telemedicine.  

    -    Developing and disseminating standards, guidelines and best practices.  This includes the development of global clinical practice guidelines providing uniformity and quality assurance in the delivery of healthcare.

    -    Providing a clearinghouse of information and services for key telemedicine stakeholders. ATA is focusing on the barriers and opportunities that exist for telemedicine between nations and within countries around the world. This includes a focus on inter- and supra-national policy and regulatory concerns.

    -    Fostering networking and collaboration among allied interests in medicine and technology. An ongoing objective is to create a comprehensive catalog of telemedicine projects around the world, in order to reduce redundancy, encourage cooperation between programs and build sustainable delivery networks.
    -    Promoting research, innovation and education. ATA encourages the ongoing sharing of information and data between members and nations. Sharing and education is bi-directional and there is something to be learned from each nation's experience with telemedicine.  In many cases, developing countries are leading the way in telemedicine deployment and can teach a lot to more developed states.    

ATA is in a unique position to accomplish the goals listed above because of its diverse and internationally active membership. Roughly 15 percent of ATA's 4,500 members reside outside the United States and ATA's membership contains representatives from more than 45 countries. ATA represents more than 100 multi-national corporate members, firms who sell hardware, software, infrastructure and medical services throughout the world.  Moreover, ATA's 120 non-profit institutional members are also leaders in delivering healthcare services outside the United States, often spearheading telemedicine projects in developing and underserved markets.

ATA has also actively collaborated with international and foreign-based telehealth association partners. The association has signed cooperative memoranda of understanding with 15 telemedicine-focused organizations around the world, including the leading telemedical societies in Europe and the developing world. These partnerships provide a framework for global collaboration and establish a network of institutional allies in the globalization of telemedicine.

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