3 Things I learned on the ATA Webinar

I wonder if this might become a monthly feature?  After all, the ATA webinar I’m talking about was titled: This Month in Telemedicine.

I won’t go into great detail about legislation and such.  For that, I highly recommend the replay which can be found here.

The three items I’d like to look at are:

1.  The FDA has released draft guidance for devices for review and comment.  It can be found here.  What’s notable is …read more…

Past the Tipping Point

tipping point

Last Thursday I promised to discuss our takeaways from the ATA conference individually in more detail, starting with

#1 We’re past the tipping point.

I won’t belabor the point of the overall importance of this takeaway, as you can read about it here.  However, I will re-quote ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous because his numbers make a good launching point: “Today, 20 million Americans get some part of their healthcare remotely, and that number will grow as telemedicine expands its reach.”  And the ATA President, Edward Brown, believes that mHealth/Telemedicine will grow by 50% every year.

According to a study by IHS Technology and published in January, the almost 350,000 telehealth patients in 2013 will swell to Read more

3 Takeaways from ATA 2014

ATA takeaways

Yes, we’re perhaps a little late with this posting.  However, we think the key takeaways (for us) from this year’s ATA  (American Telemedicine Association) conference are important enough to immortalize anyway.

#1 We’re past the tipping point.

This was such a key point that the ATA itself made sure to quote a speaker mentioning it before the conference even started:

Speaker Joe Peterson, CEO of Specialists on Call, said: “In 2013 telemedicine started passing many ‘tipping points,’ in multiple industry segments, making it a true moment in time to found, scale …read more…

Mobile Bandwidth: A Consideration for Telemedicine and mHealth

no network

An oddly under-scrutinized aspect of telehealth, telemedicine, and mHealth, is summed up by the last of those three terms: mHealth. The “m” stands for “mobile,” and mobility requires telehealth services to be rendered over the most broadly available data networks, which usually are not the fastest.

Although this is usually taken for granted with rural areas, this is also often true of heavily populated ones. For example, I live in a fairly populous suburb. However, due to geography, our coverage map for one of the main carriers in the area (mine!) looks like this:

3g v 4g nearby

The salmon and red areas are 4G coverage and the purple is 3G (the light purple is actually data roaming!).  I repeat, this is not a rural area, although it does border on an undeveloped area.  It has been heavily populated for several decades.

For any mHealth / telemedicine deployment to be useful, it will need to be fully functional at 3G network speeds.  This ensures the widest reach to potential patients as well as the most stability for any use while in motion.  I’ll provide an example of each:

First, imagine a household where one of the occupants has a chronic condition and has agreed to use videocalls for check-ins.  As of 2012, the United States has roughly 75 active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people.1  This could be as high as 84 this year (2014)2, indicating that even low-income families are potentially indicated as having access to mobile broadband.

The follow up question is, do they have access to higher speed 4G networks?  Do they live in neighborhoods with crowded capacity?  Do their devices have the capability to provide the quality of connection required to avoid a trip to the hospital? (Especially costly in the case of rural/distant patients, but applicable to urban/suburban life as well.)  Even if their usage plan includes 4G LTE/WiMax, do they actually have that reception?  Even I don’t have 4G access at home.

The second example may be illustrated by terrestrial ambulances or air medical services (helicopters, etc.).  If EMTs are in communication with a hospital, sharing potentially life-saving visuals and data, then keeping the call from dropping and maintaining the quality of the call can be extremely important–even when buildings and mountains and such block the towers of the speedier networks.

Hospitals, clinics, ambulance services, in fact, any organization looking to improve patient outcomes and streamline their ability to provide service by use of video communication, should keep in mind that the solution they try needs to have a track record of functioning on 3G.  It needs to be a truly mobile solution, that can perform on a number of devices in that network environment, and under any number of conditions within that environment.

ambulance in flood

  1.  “Active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants 2012”, Dynamic Report, ITU ITC EYE, International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved on 29 June 2013.
  2. ICT Facts and Figures 2014“, ITU ITC EYE, International Telecommunication Union.