Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reflections on the ATA Annual Show

I just came back from the American Telemedicine Association’s Annual Show in Seattle. Compared with last year, the format and agenda of the show did not change much. There were many educational sessions on telemedicine practices and the show floor featured about roughly 100 companies and organizations.

I attended the show with a keen interest in consumer telehealth applications and services. There was one concurrent session track focused on this topic hence I spent most of my time there. Although the topics appear interesting, I was a bit disappointed about the speakers’ willingness to discuss means and incentives to jumpstart the still-dormant consumer telehealth market. The best session, in my opinion, was a Q&A session after a panel discussion featuring two Continua Health Alliance’s board members, including David Whitlinger, the Chairman of the organization from Intel, Michael Robkin, the Treasurer of Continua from Kaiser Permanente, and Bernard Harris, a venture capitalist and physician himself from Houston-based Vesalius Ventures. Questions from the audience clearly indicated their interest in practical strategies and tactics to take down the barriers for consumer telehealth adoption. At least I think the three panelists gave honest and forthcoming answers. One question is about physician’s endorsement of the technology. Bernard was very straight-forward by saying that the solution is either waiting until the older physicians retire or showing to them that the technology can bring them additional revenue and increase their income. “Will five-year worth of clinical data change their mind?” asked one attendee. “No,” Bernard replied.

On the show floor, I met a few interesting new companies besides reconnecting with some of my old contacts. One of them is Pharos Innovations. The company uses an IVR (Interactive Voice Response)-based solution to offer remote home health monitoring services to hospitals and health plans. Hospitals are their major customers, instead of home care agencies pursued by other home telehealth vendors, according to Bob Rivas, VP of Sales. He shared a bit details about its business model which I found very interesting. Another company is BodyTel, which makes Bluetooth-enabled glucose testing devices and offers diabetic care management services. Glucose readings are wirelessly transmitted to the cell phone of the user who can download the glucose acquisition software directly from the Web to his phone. The company also develops a Web-based information portal that allows clinicians to manage diabetic care patients almost in real time. Angie Pisacane, BodyTel’s Director of Marketing, promised me to talk more about its technology and solution when the device gets FDA 510(K) clearance in a couple of months.

Overall, the Show is good for people to know the existing telemedicine technologies and practices. But I would like to see more discussion about the future: how we can grow this industry from a practitioner-centered, grant-driven market to a consumer-powered, venture capital-funded high-growth market. I shared my thoughts in a 30-minute presentation at one of the case study sessions on April 7. Interested parties can download the slides from ATA’s Website or send an email request directly to me.

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