Disruptive Health Technology: The Patient

November 17, 2014
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Patients connecting at a recent Patient Power event

Patients connecting at a recent Patient Power event

It was a Harvard Business School professor, in 1997, who coined the term “disruptive technology.” Thanks to Clayton M. Christensen. He understood that new things can shake up an industry or create a new one.  The PC, cell phones, cloud computing are great examples. But in pharmaceuticals, diagnostic testing and, more broadly, in healthcare in general, I would suggest that today’s best example is a human being, the patient. The patient is starting to shake up these industries, because they are getting smarter about their diagnoses, what tests are required and when, what the results mean, what clinical trials and medicines are available, and how side effects can be controlled. This is certainly true in cancer like the ones we cover in depth at Patient Power.

For a few years now, it has been in vogue in hospital marketing (at least in the U.S.) that care is portrayed as  “patient-centric.” But in many cases, that has been just marketing. The healthcare teams, comprised of mostly very well-meaning professionals, did their best on ever tighter schedules and with the knowledge they had. It has been variable how much respect has really been shown the patient as a consumer. Patients were forced to just accept what they got. But that’s changing fast. For years, the Internet has opened the “black box” of healthcare. We can learn about our diagnosis and meet others who have it, too. We can hear about all the latest treatments and find out who the experts are. We can discover what’s in research and how we can participate. We can become smart—often smarter than the first doctor we see—and we can quickly connect with others, so we are no longer alone. My passion has been to make this education and empowerment easier and more accessible to all.

What’s very cool now is that all this is coming to our mobile phone. So we can get the information and support we want in words, pictures and video—live or on-demand—in any language and where and when we need it. The “powerful patient” is poised to disrupt healthcare and be on top of the power pyramid instead of at the bottom.

I have an image of how a Swiss banker must treat wealthy clients who fly in to make deposits. I am not saying doctors and nurses should bow to us when we come in, but I do feel they should value us as increasingly well-informed consumers who are willing to partner with them for state-of-the-art care and strong efforts to preserve quality of life. We are people who will work hard on our own to discover all the options among healthcare providers, available tests and pharmaceuticals. If you truly partner with us to help us get the best option, whether it is yours or someone else’s, you will ultimately win. If you don’t, we’ll walk. And your slick marketing efforts, not backed by a 360-degree view of the facts, will be shown to be hollow and exposed.

Patients are now talking to one another today, and that will only increase. Our conversations will cross borders and hop over language and cultural barriers. It is happening now and will only grow. We are the disruptive technology. And while I respect so many in the traditional healthcare industry, I am really excited for us patients.

Image: Patients connecting at a recent Patient Power event

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