Doctors deserve respect and admiration, but does the god-like status we give them mean we end up letting them making vital decisions about our lives without challenging them to make sure those decisions are correct? Robin Farmanfarmaian certainly thinks so.
And she should know. After being misdiagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the age of 16, the author of The Patient as CEO: How Technology Empowers the Healthcare Consumer
 had 3 organs removed and was hospitalized 26 times during ten years of hell, after which she fired all her doctors and replaced them with “a team of doctors who would work with me collaboratively, as a peer and a colleague.”She built a team across different hospital systems, removing the “victim-god” relationship.
“Instead of going into a doctor’s appointment feeling victimized by my own body, by my disease, by the healthcare system and by codes we don’t understand, I decided to be the one in control – the CEO,” Robin told RedOrbit.
“I decided this is no longer an authority situation; I’m going to start looking at this person as a colleague who is going to make me better,” she added. “Every time I had an MRI or a CAT scan or a blood test I got hard copies, so they could start to build a profile.”
Robin says that while she met resistance from some doctors, others were willing to try things her way. She advises that anyone who finds a doctor unprepared to listen to a patient on their own body should “walk away.”
Some doctors may be unwilling to change, but Robin believes that technology will make it increasingly easy for patients to be their own health “CEO”, and to understand their own bodies and conditions better than a doctor who thinks about them only during a short 15-minute window.
“Artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printing, point-of-care diagnostics – these things working together give you access to an unprecedented amount of information and a dashboard on the human body,” she explained.
“In the next 5 or 10 years we’re going to see things like sensors inside of blood vessels under the skull giving you instant data; an instant report card.”
Healthcare your way
We could live in a world where we barely ever have to even go into a hospital, Robin believes.
“If you want to be in the middle of Africa getting robotic surgery by a surgeon who happens to be in France, if you want sensors that are subcutaneous, you could have it. Healthcare when you want it, how you want it,” she suggests.
Robin is currently involved in pioneering technology that will be able to diagnose sleep apnea in the home, and is on the board of directors at a non-profit called the Organ Preservation Alliance, which aims to “build on recent advances in cryopreservation, ice-blockers and vitrification…to catalyze breakthroughs on the remaining obstacles towards the long-term storage of organs.”
Can doctors get used to all this new technology at the same time as getting used to patients being treated as equals?
A change in education will be required, as doctors “need to become medical engineers, data literate, genome literate, device enabled,” says Robin. But she does find “a lot of physicians are very open to this new paradigm shift.”
Change may not come easy, but when you really think about it, Robin concludes, “how do you say to someone: ‘you don’t have control over your own body and your own life – I’m the one in charge of how you feel’?”
The Patient as CEO: How Technology Empowers the Healthcare Consumer
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by Robin Farmanfarmaian shows how technology can fundamentally change how patients interact with medical professionals. Check out the book on Amazon!