Blog: The “Wisdom of Crowds” Meets Telemedicine in DC

About a decade ago, as social networking and smart phones began to take hold and change our culture, James Surowiecki wrote a book called “The Wisdom of Crowds.” His central argument is that the aggregation of information in groups results in decisions that are often better than what could have been made by any single member of the group. Through experimentation, he was proven to be correct.* It’s an interesting concept for organizations like ATA and its members. When we get together as a group and talk about the issues that face our profession, we surface better ideas and more enduring solutions.

We put this idea into action last week. ATA brought the crowd to Washington, DC for a new kind of conference, EDGE 2017. We started with a simple premise: gather the leaders shaping telemedicine policy, practice, technology, and strategy, put them in the same room, and see where the discussion goes. Would the crowd bring forward ideas and solutions that would be impossible to surface if we were doing it as individuals? The short answer is…yes.

I was completely energized and encouraged to be part of so many thoughtful, results-oriented conversations, and to be present among my colleagues in this critically important profession. To encourage dialogue, we developed “learning labs” that allowed our 200 participants to do a deep-dive into a handful of areas critical to the future of telemedicine.

We memorialized the sessions graphically with the help of an artist. Below are some samples of how this technique helps keep the sessions’ important takeaways in our minds.

In the first learning lab, we discussed smart approaches to scaling telemedicine, in which we learned that emphasizing value, maintaining a patient focus, taking a quality-over-quanitity approach to selecting telehealth solutions, and utilizing the power of partnership to improve access and reduce fragmentation are the keys to success.

Next, we learned just how artificial intelligence can help us do more with less, and can enhance provider outputs while preventing burnout.

Finally, we learned how telemedicine can drive payment and service innovations. We walked away with new insights on how to most effectively measure telemedicine’s value, and uncovered our critical call-to-action: developing a common message and framework for communicating our “why” to legislators in our efforts to move telehealth forward.

Since we’re committed to bringing our members as close to the action in DC as possible, we were joined by Dan Diamond, David Pittman, and Jennifer Haberkorn from POLITICO, one of America’s most influential political news outlets, to discuss the insider’s view of health policy at a time of great upheaval in Congress and within the Trump Administration. You can watch their session here.

So, what’s next? We are going to take what we learned at EDGE 2017 and use them as a platform to address how ATA can focus on the future with this crowd’s wisdom as a guide. Early next year, we will unveil a new initiative directed at promoting telemedicine’s value proposition to a much wider audience.

If you missed EDGE 2017, you can still become part of the “crowd” at ATA’s Annual Conference this April in Chicago. We’re planning another exciting, stimulating and important gathering where we will continue to address the most challenging issues facing healthcare and telemedicine’s role.

I hope you can join me and many of our colleagues this spring in Chicago.

Sabrina L. Smith, DrHA
Interim CEO
American Telemedicine Association

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*James Surowiecki, “The Wisdom of Crowds” 2004, Doubleday