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Opening Plenary: Telemedicine enters a new frontier

By Mike Moran, Project Editor

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The American Telemedicine Association and its members will play a key role in helping the United States usher in an era of quality, affordable healthcare, keynote speaker James "Butch" Rosser, MD, told a crowd of about 400 people during Sunday's Opening Plenary.

"Our planet is in need of a win, and the ATA and you are going to deliver because it is our time and we will prevail," said Rosser, who gave the Kenneth Bird Distinguished Lecture to help kick off ATA 2012. "Healthcare is now a marquee item, and the good thing is that the solution will not be accomplished by traditional means."

Rosser is, among other things, a surgeon, educator, futurist, social advocate, television personality and pioneer in using telementoring to provide remote instruction for surgeons performing laparoscopic surgery. During his talk, Rosser, who underwent laparoscopic several years ago, poked gentle fun at his size (290 pounds, he said, down from 450), used video to demonstrate how he employed telementoring to instruct a surgeon 2,000 miles away, and promised to work more closely with the ATA.

"I make a pledge: I am ready for you to use me any way you see fit," he said.

In promoting telemedicine, it's critical that the industry build public awareness of its benefits. To that end, he said, TV physician Dr. Mehmet Oz agreed to his request to feature telemedicine in an upcoming segment of the "Dr. Oz Show," a highly popular program that focuses on medical issues and personal health.
  
"We have to bring telemedicine into the household," Rosser said. "We need access to the head as well as to the heart."

During his opening remarks, outgoing ATA President Bernard Harris, MD, drew a comparison between NASA and telemedicine. Harris, a former astronaut, said that when people ask him if the space program is ending, he says, "No!"

The space program is entering a new frontier, as is telemedicine, he said. Over the past year, the ATA has worked hard to demonstrate telemedicine's ROI, which is "so important when building an industry;" discussed national licensure with lawmakers in Washington; worked to bring together international telemedicine partners; and strengthened the association by making good progress toward compiling a $1 million reserve by 2015.

"We are moving in the right direction," he said.

A. Stewart Ferguson, PhD, will replace Harris as ATA president.

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