President's Update

March Update

Dear Members,

Welcome to my March update.

There are many things happening in the world of Telemedicine at the moment, especially on the policy front, and with all the preparations for the Chicago conference. I am delighted to announce that our conference registrations are about 30% up on an equivalent time last year so I strongly suggest that everyone who is coming, and who has not yet registered, does so soon as it looks like we will have a very well attended conference.

All is looking good for ATA 2018 in Chicago, April 29 – May 1st where the theme of “Designing the Future of Modern Healthcare” is attracting a lot of interest. As I said in my previous Update, the Keynote Speakers include Robert Wachter MD, Professor and Chair of Medicine at UCSF, and the best-selling author of “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age”, Lisa Bielamowicz MD, President of Gist Health and formerly the Chief Medical Officer at the Advisory Board Company, and Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP. There are several new educational and networking opportunities and an expanded Innovation Zone, as well as a special leadership and awards Gala dinner open to all on the Sunday evening. This Gala Awards dinner is being held at the Field Museum, so you will be able to eat your dinner with the largest T Rex ever found looking over your shoulder, and after dinner relax with colleagues checking out an Egyptian Tomb! Tickets are selling fast as there are only about 250 places available for what will certainly be an excellent and fun evening. A number of companies and health systems are buying tables and we hope that this will prove to be a first class venue for all to network in a fun and highly educational social environment. There are still a few general sponsorship opportunities available for companies that are attending ATA 2018 and Courtney Mesmer is the person to contact if you wish to take up any of these. I am confident this is going to be a wonderful conference, and look forward to meeting many of you in Chicago, a real destination city for those of you who wish to combine the conference with a few days of holiday activities.

I thought I would highlight policy issues in this month’s update, following the tremendous policy success for telemedicine in the February budget deal which included parts of the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act. The new law, is targeted at Medicare’s telehealth and telemedicine reimbursement rules (Wicklund 2018)

and represents the largest boost to Medicare telehealth and telemedicine coverage in 17 years. Given the significance of the new law, the ATA Policy team will lead a special strategy session at conference, to take place at 12pm CT on Tuesday, May 1. Rsvp for this policy session to All conference attendees are welcome to attend.

The new law includes these provisions:

  • eliminates geographic restrictions on telestroke consultation services, beginning in 2019;
  • expands telehealth coverage under Medicare Advantage Plan B, beginning in 2020;
  • gives Accountable Care Organizations more flexibility to use telehealth services;
  • adds the patient’s home freestanding dialysis facilities, without geographic restriction, to the list of originating sites for monthly telehealth assessments with a nephrologist, beginning in 2019, though Medicare would not provide a separate originating site payment if the service was conducted at home; and

On other policy fronts, the Opioid Addiction crisis is spurring interest in enabling physicians to prescribe controlled substances over telemedicine. The ATA has been working hard through the Mental Health Special Interest Group, co-chaired by Robert Caudill MD and Tania Malik JD, working with Latoya Thomas, to prepare advisory documentation on this which has been submitted to the Senate Finance Committee. ATA suggested improving access by enhancing existing, and creating new, points of care by having CMS remove originating and distant site restrictions to allow access to diagnosis or treatment in metropolitan areas as well as through an array of federally funded community and rural sites. ATA has also asked CMS to enforce Medicaid requirements around the country, to broaden integrated service models and to waive DEA restrictions to allow controlled drug prescribing by telemedicine.

Finally, I know that if you are in DC, Ann Mond Johnson, Sabrina Smith and all the ATA staff would welcome you visiting the new ATA abode and spending time there. The new address is suite 850, 901 N Glebe Rd, Arlington VA 22203. Ph 703-373-9600. Also, do remember to put Edge 2018, in Austin on Sept 26th to 28th in your schedules, where the primary focus will be on innovation and technology drivers in telemedicine. We are already planning the program for this conference and ask anyone who would like to propose exciting and innovative keynote presenters to send names to Courtney Mesmer.

Do please continue to contact me, Ann Mond Johnson, Sabrina Smith, any ATA staff, and any Board members or other ATA leaders with any questions or concerns. It is always good to hear from you.

My best wishes to all.


Dr. Peter Yellowlees, MBBS
American Telemedicine Association