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Get schooled in Telemedicine 101

By Mike Miliard, Managing Editor

TAMPA, FL -- Think of it a bit like this: Everything you wanted to know about telehealth but were afraid to ask.

Saturday's day-long professional development certificate course, "Telemedicine 101: Building Your Telehealth Program," helps kick off the American Telemedicine Association's ATA 2011 conference. The course – which is being coordinated by the University of California Davis Health System – gives attendees who are new to and curious about the telemedicine sector an intensive and wide-ranging primer on the ins and outs of this burgeoning way of providing care.

"We continue to see a growing interest in the field," said Shelley Palumbo, chief administrative officer of UC Davis Health System's Center for Health & Technology.

The Telemedicine 101 course, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., features a slate of experts from UC Davis presenting on an array of telehealth's pressing issues.

It offers "a high-level executive overview" of the field, said Palumbo, ranging from operational, clinical and technical issues to advice on other big areas people should be thinking about as they venture into the areas of remote care delivery, such as reimbursement and legal practicalities.

Featuring everything from pointers on equipment and connectivity to a rundown of the alphabet soup of acronyms and other jargon with which one should be familiar, Palumbo said the course is meant to span the gamut of a complex and fast-changing sector.

"We talk about what it takes to establish a successful program," she said. "What do you need to do for preparation? Who are good partners to look for within your organization? What are some of the politics you might need to negotiate?"

With multiple chances for interaction and Q&A, Telemedicine 101 also enlists experts from the National Telehealth Resource Centers, who will brief participants about where to find resources in their states and regions and clue participants in to valuable toolkits "so people don't have to reinvent the wheel."

After all, there's a lot to be thinking about.

"We talk about the clinical considerations in a telehealth program from the practitioner's perspective, both on the providing and the receiving end," said Palumbo. "We talk about legal, regulatory and policy issues – the hot topic in the past year really has been the credentialing and privileging of telemedicine practitioners. We give an overview of key business aspects and reimbursement, for Medicare, Medicaid and private payers."

In addition, she said, "we talk about using telehealth in different ways – being creative and thinking outside the box and looking at some innovative programs."

For those whose interest is piqued by Saturday's session – those pupils who are ready to put on their commencement robes and graduate to more intensive study – on Sunday, UC Davis Health System will be presenting "Telehealth 201: Taking Your Program to the Next Level."

With primers on inpatient and outpatient telemedicine (homing in on specific advice for different specialties) and briefings on the finer points of contracting for telemedicine services and information on the legal must-knows when it comes to practicing across state boundaries, there's no shortage of new areas to learn more about.

"There's just so much to cover," said Palumbo.

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