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ATA's growth reflects a global boom in telemedicine

By Ben Forstag, Director of Communications for the American Telemedicine Association

It's been another year of phenomenal growth for American Telemedicine Association. This is most clearly evidenced at our Annual Meeting in Tampa, which is the largest event in association history and the biggest telemedicine event of the year. 

Registration, exhibitors and exhibit space have grown by double digits and our education program is the best we've ever had.  We've even been recognized by Tradeshow Executive Magazine as the 7th fastest-growing tradeshow in the world.

The ATA's growth is emblematic of a larger adoption of telemedicine technologies, both in the United States and around the world.  Increasingly, providers, payers, policy-makers and patients recognize the power of telemedicine to deliver quality, cost-effective healthcare. More than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine. Around the world, millions of patients use telemedicine to monitor their vital signs, remain healthy and stay out of hospitals and emergency rooms. Consumers and clinicians have access to more than 75,000 health and wellness applications on their smart phones. Telemedicine is no longer a niche "future trend."  The future is now – telemedicine is being fully integrated into modern healthcare delivery systems and empowering consumers to take greater control of their own health.
 
In Washington, D.C., national leaders have also awoken to the realized promise of telemedicine. The last year was a turning point in gaining support with policy makers and federal agencies. These groups have engaged with the ATA to help develop policies to promote the further deployment of telemedicine. In particular, the ATA has gained traction with a proposed set of policy "fixes" – simple actions that the federal agencies can immediately implement, without the need for legislative action.  These proposals have become a focal point for discussions.
 
Increasingly, both telemedicine and the ATA are spreading throughout the world. In every corner of the world, countries are turning to telemedicine to provide healthcare. The ATA's members come from 45 countries, and international membership in ATA is growing rapidly. Through a series of Memorandums of Understanding, the ATA is developing strong ties to organizations around the globe. In addition, the use of telemedicine to provide healthcare services across international lines is growing and helping to provide a unique form of international diplomacy.
 
Moving forward, the ATA will continue to play a vital role in the development of telemedicine technologies through the establishment of standards and guidelines for telehealth practices. Practice guidelines are critical to guarantee uniform delivery of healthcare via telemedicine. They help the industry and the ATA to continue take the lead in creating qualitative and quantitative measurements for quality assurance. To date, the ATA has produced eight sets of guidelines, each focusing on a specific practice area of telemedicine (Each guideline is available without charge on the ATA website). These documents form the basis for uniform, quality patient care and safety, grounded in empirical research and clinical experience.
 
The ATA will also be the catalyst for education, networking and commerce among the different stakeholders.  In addition to the Annual Meeting, there are several other upcoming conferences, including a Washington Policy Summit (July 27, 2011) a Fall Forum in Anchorage, Alaska (Sept. 19-21, 2011) and, of course, next year's Annual Meeting in San Jose (April 29-May 1, 2012.)

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