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Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 3/6/23

March 6, 2023 Dr. Jayne No Comments

Jayne Goes to ATA


I have arrived at the American Telemedicine Association meeting in San Antonio, escaping the freezing rain of the Midwest for the blindingly bright sun of Texas.

Since it’s been a number of years since I’ve been to the downtown area, I did my usual walkabout. I’m always stunned by how small the Alamo is and how surreal it is to be in the middle of downtown surrounded by tourist shops and a wax museum. Although the Riverwalk was bustling Friday night, the surface streets were more subdued. I saw police responding to two restaurants, one near the Alamo and the other on the Riverwalk, due to disorderly patrons. By 7 p.m., Alamo Plaza was all but deserted, but the Riverwalk was bustling.


Saturday morning, I got my four miles in along the Riverwalk before many tourists were up and about. Most people don’t realize that the touristy section of the San Antonio River is made possible by a dam, which can control the height of the pool in the Riverwalk section. I grew up along a major river and had many trips to the lock and dam complexes with my dad, so I’m more prone to notice these kinds of things than the average tourist.

San Antonio is definitely doing its part to keep the area clean, with ample service workers out hosing off sidewalks and picking up trash during the early morning hours. It’s a shame that people have to throw trash in the river in the first place, but maintenance workers were fishing it out nonetheless.


On the way to registration, I stumbled upon San Antonio’s own “love locks” bridge near one of the less traveled sections of the Riverwalk.


At the convention center, I found a street artist working on this piece using paint pens. It was fascinating to watch how they controlled the lift with one hand and painted with the other.


Registration was a breeze, and the friendly check-in agent even asked me about the marathon shirt I was wearing. The conference bags were minimalist in nature and I like that. This is the kind of bag I keep in my suitcase for grocery runs when I’m traveling. It contained the usual flyers and postcards, along with a COVID-19 test kit from sponsor EMed, which is a great thing to include in a conference bag since many people have decided COVID is “over” and I suspect that a lot of the allergies people are complaining about might just be COVID.

On the other end of the useful spectrum is this single sock from ProAssurance. Attendees have to go by the booth to get the other one. Although it seems clever, it has the potential to generate a significant amount of waste, and attendees are becoming more attuned to that. Given the pattern on the sock, I’ll probably go by to get the other one for my favorite MD/JD, however. There were a couple of flyers in the bag, along with a couple of white papers, but none of the random junk I’ve gotten at other conferences, which was much appreciated.

After a brief sojourn to my hotel room to catch up on some of the working hours I missed while traveling yesterday, it was time to head back to the conference for a “Deep Dive” session on the business aspects of telehealth. It was a great session with lots of detail and a ton of attendees, resulting in standing room only conditions and people sitting on the floor around the edges of the room. Topics included compliance, professional liability, cyber liability, and the new proposed DEA regulations on controlled substances within telehealth.

I liked the seating arrangements – large round tables in the front for those who prefer that configuration, and standard rows of chairs in the back. The audience seemed engaged, with few people leaving until the end. I found the event photographers distracting, though. They were constantly in the room and would move around to take a new round of photos every time new panelists took the stage, often blocking the view of the speakers. A couple of them were also using 360-degree flash units even when shooting photos from far away, and although I don’t think they did much to illuminate the subjects they did a great job of blinding the audience momentarily. I wasn’t super keen on them taking long slow video panoramas of the audience, but I guess that’s just the nature of the beast these days.

From there we were off to the opening session which included speakers from the ATA, Optum, Google, and Microsoft. Topics were far ranging and there was a lot of discussion about how telehealth should evolve and expand in the post-COVID era. The presenters were largely industry folk. I overheard some people talking afterwards that it would have been good to hear from some patients whose lives had been touched by telehealth or whose care was made better through the technology. It’s nice to understand how the work we do impacts people at the point of care, whether they are clinicians, patients, or their families. Maybe ATA will consider incorporating something like this next year.

After the opening session, there was a casino night-themed social event with food and beverage service, although based on the attendance, I think a lot of people ventured out for dinner. I’m not much of a gambler, but it was fun to watch people celebrating at the craps table and to catch up with people I don’t normally get to see in person.

I’ve got some sessions picked out for the next couple of days of the conference, including ones on health equity, telehealth reimbursement, policy and advocacy, interoperability, and usability. I’ll also be hitting the exhibit hall and checking out some potential vendors as well as meeting up with a couple of old friends.

Hopefully there will be some time to soak up a little bit of sun in between sessions because the weather is certainly nicer here than it is back home. My step count was off the charts for today, so it’s now time to put my feet up and settle in with a good book to ensure I’m ready for what looks to be a pretty long day.

What kinds of things do you most like to experience at conferences, and what do you like the least? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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