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Impressions of ATA 2012

Posted by Norman Miglietta on 05/16/2012

A couple weeks ago in this space I previewed the American Telemedicine Association’s annual conference and now, upon my return, I can confidently state that M2M technology has moved beyond the “discovery phase” in this market. In past years, I’d describe the majority of our interactions as being met with blank stares, whereas this year it seems that people “get” how M2M fits into the collective goal to improve patient quality of life and outcomes. Executives and developers were literally approaching us left and right with specific use-case scenarios, where they’d determined cellular M2M was the way to bring their ideas to life.

I’ll share a quick story here to illustrate. I was out one recent evening with some friends and acquaintances, one of whom is quite hobbled really by a bad knee. I casually asked him, “So, when are you going to get a new one,” and his answer surprised me. Fact is, he feels he’s still a little young (mid-50s) to get an artificial knee. “Those things wear out, you know. And the second one’s not so easy,” he said.

Flash forward to the ATA show floor, where I met a developer who is working on an M2M device for prosthetic limbs. These “connected limbs” would deliver proactive maintenance alerts to patients and surgeons, as well as provide manufacturers with new information about how prosthetics “really” get used, what kind of wear and tear they experience and where the weak points are. All in service of continuously improving how artificial limbs get made.

Maybe that will give my buddy new confidence to move forward …

Another intriguing example is M2M-enabled insulin pumps and monitoring devices, to improve peace-of-mind for diabetic patients and their guardians. Consider a diabetic child whose parents are afraid to let him sleep over at a friend’s out of fear he won’t be able to get the insulin he needs, when he needs it. Should an exception event occur, the parents won’t be there to receive an audible alert from the device. With an M2M-connected device, the parents can now get the peace of mind they need, knowing that the device can and will alert them if there is a problem and they can quickly take action.  So little Billy gets to enjoy life like any other kid, and his parents can rest easy knowing he’s going to be ok for his overnight in the neighborhood.

On the other side of the equation, there is still a lingering tension between the telemedicine market’s desire to innovate and those who wish to keep the status quo. This includes payers who decide which monitoring applications are worthy of reimbursement, and which are not.

Given the deep promise that telemedicine holds to improve patient lives and outcomes, and remove costs from the process, it would be good for all involved to see these issues resolved soon.

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