As commonly understood in the medical world, a “fellowship” refers to a usually 1-3 year training program following a 3-5 year residency. As a residency prepares a recent medical graduate for a specialty, a fellowship prepares him for a subspecialty.
Telemedicine, of course, is not a specialty at all; it’s a tool. Telemedicine fellowships are nevertheless beginning to appear. The first two have been established at East Coast academic centers, now offering training programs that appear to be aimed at fairly similar goals.
Georgetown University offers a fellowship housed in its Emergency Medicine Department. Georgetown writes:
“The program provides opportunity for collaboration among emergency medicine faculty and faculty at other medical and surgical disciplines as well as engineering and business. We aspire to enable physicians to develop clinical competence in the delivery of telemedicine, leadership in establishing new programs, basic technical knowledge of telehealth delivery, and experience in order to significantly impact the rapidly growing and changing field of telemedicine, telehealth, remote health monitoring, and mobile health.” https://smhs.gwu.edu/emed/education-training/fellowships/telemedicine.
The American College of Telemedicine offers this description of Georgetown’s program:
“This is a 2-year fellowship program which provides extensive exposure to the delivery, bio-engineering, and information technology behind the practice of telemedicine. It promotes the implementation and delivery of a telemedicine solution in programs both international and domestic by taking advantage of the already functioning telemedicine program in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates.” http://www.acotm.org/fellowships/ .
Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University offers a one-year (two years optional) telehealth leadership fellowship program, likewise housed in its Department of Emergency Medicine, and open to all graduates of any ACGME-accredited residency. Of their program, Jeff says:
“Working with management teams across TJU & private sector partners, [fellows] will develop and lead telehealth use cases while building their leadership and administrative skills. Utilizing team based learning, hands on application of knowledge, and simulation training, the curriculum is informed by the principles of experiential & self-directed learning theories to foster knowledge in four core areas of study.”
Jeff identifies these core areas as leadership skills development, entrepreneurship, academics, and clinical experience. http://www.jefferson.edu/university/jmc/departments/emergency_medicine/education/fellowships/telehealth_leadership.html
The American College of Telemedicine posts a description of the Jefferson program also:
“This 1 year fellowship program ensures its fellows a diverse education that covers the business and medicine of telehealth. This program focuses on 4 core areas to ensure the fellows’ success in the future, leadership kills and development, entrepreneurship, academia and research, and clinical experience.” http://www.acotm.org/fellowships/.
Jeff is also building the “National Academic Center for Telehealth (NACT).” Jeff describes NACT as “the home for the academic enterprise that accompanies the clinical and operational initiatives focused on improving the patient experience through the use of technology….The Center will serve as a regional, national, and international resource focused on developing and translating new knowledge about how to incorporate technology into the generation of health and the delivery of healthcare.” http://www.jefferson.edu/university/emerging-health-professions/national-academic-center-telehealth.html
Both of these programs are new. Both seem to tap the knowledge and skills of a multidisciplinary faculty, both seem to emphasize non-clinical as well as clinical aspects of distance care, and both focus on international service. Emergency medicine is certainly a logical home for programs such as these, since an emphasis on immediacy, communications, and technology is common to both, but such programs could doubtless be domiciled in other departments (medicine, family practice) as well.
It is far too early to judge what sort of impact these and future fellowship programs are likely to have on the growth and development of the field, but the commitment of two large, sophisticated centers such as this is encouraging.