On Wednesday, October 27, 2010 the field of Telehealth lost one of its most coveted leaders – Bob Waters. Bob’s job was not centered around telehealth and he didn’t have to spend time on it to make a living. However, telehealth was one of his passions.
His interest in telehealth came during his Congressional career following some healthcare issues for Senator Tom Harkin as his chief of staff. The Board of the Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law knows that Bob gave countless hours of his own time to help all of us–including those who were unprepared and unfamiliar with how to make changes happen–monitor, strategize, and address issues that were impacting telehealth at the state and federal levels.
The current Medicare reimbursement language that we have today had its roots in the work of the Southern Governors Association in the late 1990s and Bob was there as the language was drafted. In September, 2000, Bob orchestrated a hearing of the House Commerce Committee so that many of us in the field could testify in front of Congress to voice our concerns that the Federal government’s reimbursement language was not working and we needed a change. Bob testified in front of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act’s Technical Advisory Committee in 2007 and 2008 to overturn their regulation that precluded the use of telehealth between two urban emergency rooms.
In early 2010, Bob, who was already battling brain cancer, was at the table helping ATA, CTeL, the University of Virginia, and the University of California at Davis convince CMS that their current stance on credentialing and privileging was about to cripple telehealth. This was typical Bob. His passion for telehealth and doing the right thing rose above his illness, as he helped all of us deal with CMS on this issue. The good news is that we should see a positive change in the regulations from CMS on this issue in early 2011.
Bob’s legislative experience was critical to helping us understand what was possible and how change could occur. He was eternally optimistic. When our energy would wane, he would push harder, always asking for more. Without Bob’s influence on the process and the influence he had on those who engaged in the process, the needle would never have moved. Without his influence, we would not have seen Federal telehealth reimbursement, or credentialing/privileging changes or many of the other telehealth advancements. The telehealth industry simply would not have moved forward as fast without Bob’s help.
We may never experience another Bob Waters in Telehealth. A giant of a man, who found joy in helping us move the field of telehealth forward. A man whose passion to do the right thing by breaking down barriers has paved the way for telehealth, and in doing so has made a difference in this world for a countless number of patients who now have better access to care.
We hope you will join us and others in an effort to keep Bob’s enthusiasm for telehealth alive and well. He would certainly want us to carry on with the business of making telehealth a globally accepted way to deliver healthcare services to the underserved.
The Board of the Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law