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Amazing Technologies Witnessed at ATA 2009

Google, pharmacy, medication, doctors, payout

Healthcare is going to be at our fingertips both at the keyboard and on our mobile devices.

I saw a lot of incredible concepts, tools, and general genius at the American Telemedicine Association’s Annual Meeting & Expo in Las Vegas earlier this week.

But, do you know the best thing about the show? Each of the 150-plus exhibits translate to expedited, improved and more cost-effective healthcare. And we can use every bit of that.

Considering how much money we’re spending on healthcare in the U.S. these days ($2.4 trillion in 2008), everyone wants to be in the mix when it comes to making a buck.

No Vacancy on Showroom Floor

So not one, but two exhibit halls were filled with companies ranging from small start-ups to big giants like Cisco, Intel, Honeywell and General Dynamics. Anyone who has technology applications is looking for ways to use those applications in healthcare. Take Intel’s recent partnership with General Electric. The two companies will invest $250 million over the next five years to produce telemedicine products for home healthcare/monitoring.

One of the most notable trends in healthcare is the move toward the transmission of data via cellular/mobile devices. Healthcare is going to be at our fingertips both at the keyboard and on our mobile devices. The military has instituted a program, for example, called the mCare Cell Phone Project. It utilizes cell phone data exchanges between patients and providers to modify behaviors and improve clinical outcomes by messaging patient-specific notifications, reminders and questionnaires.

Many vendors displayed video-related technology. Applications included patient-to-doctor video, as well as doctor-to-doctor or specialist-to-specialist.  Images are also sent electronically in real time, eliminating the need for face-to-face appointments with several specialists, in some cases. Many disciplines within healthcare (such as radiology, dermatology, etc.) have their own applications to transmit data.

Medical devices themselves are advancing quickly, including bluetooth blood pressure monitors, thermometers, glucose meters, caloric/activity meters, etc. These and others can all be tied directly into a database to monitor a person’s real-time vitals on a second-to-second basis, etc.

Latest & Greatest in Telemedicine

For a comprehensive summary of new, innovative products that were found at ATA 2009, click here.

For information about specific vendors who exhibited at ATA 2009, 32 interviews have been made available by the ATA.

Brian Dolan from MobiHealthnews.com also blogged from the ATA show and provides a comprehensive recap.

Plenty needs to be done about our current healthcare system, but it was very reassuring to walk through the ATA 2009 exhibit halls knowing that healthcare will continue to become more and more efficient, and effective, thanks to telemedicine.

The need for efficiency and cost savings is apparent just by looking at these stats from the National Coalition on Healthcare:

* Healthcare spending in the United States is projected to reach $3.1 trillion in 2012 and $4.3 trillion by 2016.

* Healthcare spending equals 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.

* In 2008, the United States spent 17 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare. This percentage is expected to reach 20 percent by 2017.

Telemedicine Is Not Going Away

As time goes on, doctors and patients will inevitably continue to understand the benefits of telemedicine. Right now, many doctors and patients are wary of advances such as electronic health records, the prescribing of lifestyle medications online, administering healthcare or patient monitoring electronically, and the list goes on.

However, many patients, especially those in sparsely populated areas, sorely need these and other types of healthcare benefits provided by telemedicine. It means less trips to the healthcare provider, which translates to time and cost savings, which are two reasons why telemedicine is advancing more rapidly than ever.

Another reason is that the Obama administration values telemedicine. Billions of dollars are being dedicated to telemedicine projects through the stimulus/recovery plan, including $20 billion in health IT infrastructure and Medicare/Medicaid incentives to motivate healthcare providers and organizations to electronically exchange the health information of patients.

As one doctor at the Cisco booth at ATA 2009 stated, “telemedicine is a freight train that cannot be stopped.”

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