The American Telemedicine Association’s decision to enter into a joint venture with ClearHealth Quality Institute to develop the next generation of telemedicine accreditation standards is an acknowledgement by ATA that it needs expert help.

The joint venture comes shortly after 83 percent of telemedicine executives responding to a recent ATA survey said they are optimistic of the future of the industry and are planning near-term investments to keep pace with rapid transformation and growth.

Accreditation programs require a certain level of expertise, particularly on the administrative side, such as handling paperwork, promoting and marketing the initiative, says Jonathan Linkous, CEO at ATA.

“It’s a load of work, and we felt it was better if we outsource management of accreditation,” he adds. ATA and its members will still make accreditation policy, but the telemedicine accreditation program will be managed entirely by ClearHealth, a company that has launched more than 20 healthcare accreditation programs since 1995.

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The ATA program will promote patient safety, transparency of operations and adherence to relevant laws, and ClearHealth will expand the scope of ATA programs to enable more telemedicine providers to be accredited.

“Today, telemedicine services are not always easily or appropriately regulated due to the complexity of those operations,” says Garry Carneal, board chairman and CEO at ClearHealth. Consequently, the organization will create new pathways to establish national membership-based standards.

The ATA has contemplated such a move for several years, with its board deciding that, because of anticipated growth in the wider use of telemedicine, there was a need to make sure processes were done right, according to Linkous.

ClearHealth, for instance, will line up surveyors and accreditors to assist the ATA in maintaining a high level of quality. With previous initiatives now off ATA’s plate, the organization wants to focus on accreditation, Linkous says.

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