mHealth forecast wows audience

'I don’t know why patients come to see me.'
By Bernie Monegain
08:05 AM
Andrew Watson, MD

There it was – the clear-as-a-bell prediction about mobile health. Call it the "wow factor."

"I will predict 85 percent of healthcare will be done in the home in the next five or six years," Andrew Watson, MD, told an audience here at an mHealth Summit breakfast meeting Dec. 9. You could hear the hushed "wow" rippling across the room.

"I don’t know the boundaries of this; I don’t think we’re going to know for four or five years," Watson said.

But, if it turns out that his assertion about the changing venue for healthcare is incorrect, he said: “We’ve got to push harder.”

Watson, a colorectal surgeon as well as medical director of the Center for Connected Medicine at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, led a panel, which also included Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente, San Diego, and Donald Kosiak, MD, executive medical director at Avera eCare in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he serves as chief medical officer of Avera’s telemedicine programs.

The discussion ranged from the promise of mHealth, its value, sensors and the burden that too much data could have on individual care and on the industry as a whole.

Watson pointed out that, 95 percent of the time, "the customers of healthcare" are at home or work. That tells him, he said, that there's going to be enormous market pressure to deliver healthcare at home and work.

In his own practice, he figures that 50 to 60 percent of post-operative visits could be done at home, via some form of mobile health and sometimes the use of sensors.

"I don’t know why patients come to see me," he said. "It doesn’t make sense. Patient travel has a real negative force in their life and their work and their expense," he said, adding that Pennsylvania is the third most rural state after North Carolina and Texas. So, it’s hard making patients travel.

Watson envisions a time – soon – when patients will take charge of their health and their care. He’s already seeing it, especially recently since UPMC made patient portals available.

[See also: UPMC launches $100M personalized care initiative.]

"We see value very clearly at UPMC with telemedicine," said Watson. "We are seeing engaged patients and patients with more information with portals. They are more interactive with their healthcare, they are reacting to results, and they are coming in asking more questions."