DIY Healthcare and Wearables, the Next Big Thing?

At this years’ Forbes Healthcare Summit presented at the Lincoln Center in NYC I had the chance to speak with Will Falk, Managing partner of PwC’s Healthcare Services group.  Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) sponsored the sold out event and released their Top Health Industry Issues of 2015 Report that same day.  The report was created by the Health Research Institute (HRI) at PwC, which focuses on the developing market economy of the $2.8 trillion US healthcare industry.   The HRI has been producing the report for the previous 9 years and therefore has a wealth of longitudinal data.  A group of 1,000 adults are surveyed each year to identify the top 10 concerns consumers have about the US healthcare economy.

One of the hot topics of the report is wearables and apps that allow patients to engage in do it yourself (DIY) healthcare. Mr. Falk communicated the need for a personal apps pharmacy. “There are fifty thousand apps available for mobile technology, a personal apps pharmacy could help patients make sense of the clutter, highlighting the patient’s specific needs”.  He also emphasized the importance of regulating apps.  It’s essential to distinguish between apps that are prescribed and need FDA approval and apps that are more recreational. The FDA will oversee apps and wearables that could put a patient’s safety at risk if the app or wearable were not working as intended.  The top four medical apps used by the respondents were healthy eating, dieting/weight loss, exercise and health information/education indicating that apps that need FDA approval are not as widely used.  In the UK, the National Health Service maintains a public database at the website with over two hundred “safe and trusted” healthcare apps, it could make sense for the US to follow this approach. The report stated that around half of providers are comfortable using patient data streamed from DIY patient devices to measure vital signs and to analyze urine.  However, three-fourths of providers were not comfortable using DIY devices to diagnose ailments such as ear infections that must be diagnosed using qualitative measures.

clinicians and mobile devices

PwC works on most of the major healthcare information systems focusing on clinical transformation, provider analytics and physician adoption.  Mr. Falk talked about the requirement for a strong core underlying system, but admitted most of the major systems were built before tablets existed. Therefore, it is necessary to build add ons to integrate with newer technology, which can be a challenge. Hospitals could save money by integrating with apps and allowing for a bring your own device (BYOD) policy because many employees already own personal smartphones and tablets.

We are in the midst of one of the most disruptive eras in healthcare as we transition from an environment where patients are replacing payers as the consumers of healthcare.  Patients now have more “skin in the game” as deductibles get higher and patients have increasingly more information to make more informed health decisions.

Follow this link to read the full Top Health Industry Issues of 2015 report

Below is a listing of healthcare services PwC provides and their respective KLAS scores as of 12/9/2014

pwc health

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