President's Update

August Update

Dear Members,

I hope you are enjoying your summer holidays and are preparing for the changes that come at the end of August with work, school and a new season on the doorstep (said as lifelong resident of the northeast).

The board, our new CEO Ann, and many of our members have been quite busy since Chicago as the ATA prepares for a natural change as well. The environment that surrounds our beloved organization has changed a quantum leap since our foundation in April of 1993.

First, a few words about my background. I am an actively practicing colorectal surgeon in Pittsburgh and work at the UPMC (the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). I routinely use telemedicine for a variety of post-operative patients, for tele-rounding, and at times remote monitoring and surgical tele mentoring. In other words, telemedicine is a routine part of my clinical life - for me, our hospitals, my staff and my patients. So far I have only done 500 consults personally, but this virtual transformation is directly akin to my transformation into a laparoscopic colorectal surgeon from a traditional “open incision” surgeon in 2003. Over 95% of my surgeries start with a video-based laparoscopic approach. Technology has transformed my landscape in ways I was unable to imagine as I finished my training in 2003 (the year iTunes was launched).

I come from a family of surgeons, there are 8 other surgeons across 4 generations. My father, grand-father, great-uncle and great grand-father all made house-calls for their patients, and now with telemedicine I can keep this time-honored and patient centric approach going. This is, perhaps, the most humane way to treat patients, at home.

The ATA is evolving, as it must. For comparison when we were founded in 1993 there were no smartphones, no cellular broadband, no home broadband, Windows NT 3.1 was released, and the WWW was made public at CERN 11 days after the ATA was founded. In healthcare, the change is equally as dramatic - we did not have dominant minimally invasive procedures, personalized medicine with genetics was a dream, payers did not play a major role in healthcare, consumers purchased vacuums, and patients paid on average $1.16 per gallon of gas to drive to see us.

We, as the ATA membership, have a fundamental obligation to catch-up, evolve and transform our own organizational future. We now must embrace the notion that true patient centered care is based in large part on smartphones, genetics, and major scientific advances such as biological therapy, 4d imaging, deep learning, and value-based care models. To be true to our core role in healthcare, we must transform and that is exactly what we have embarked upon since we last met in Chicago.

Please join us at EDGE 2018 in Austin TX, Sept 26-28 as we begin our turn and embrace our future with our patients, members, providers, employers, payers, investors, and consumers. We have an obligation to re-envision health care, wellness, sick care, consumerism and care delivery like never before. We are the professional telemedicine maven who can serve as the telemedicine steward.

This transition is not, nor should be, easy. We need your support and engagement, and to start please so join the dialogue in Austin.

I want to thank the board of directors and the ATA staff under Ann for embracing this change. Before we meet in Austin, feel free to start the discussion using our unified membership council led by Kristi Henderson. Join a special interest group or the industry or institutional council. Follow us on Twitter. Feel free to engage me on Twitter @arwmd and use the hashtag #ATAEDGE.

Thank you, and I hope to see you with our board and ATA staff in Austin, on social media, and on our SIG video calls.


Andrew Watson, MD, MLitt, FACS
President, Board of Directors
American Telemedicine Association