Robin Farmanfarmaian is a public speaker and patient/medical technologist and her book “The Patient as CEO” is an easy-to-read primer on how you can best serve yourself as the key decision-maker, or CEO, of your own healthcare through biomedical technology advances via wearable sensors, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics and more.
The road to wellness and enlightenment for Robin was born from a stressful history with doctors who misdiagnosed her condition.
As a teen, she was thought to have an autoimmune disease, which was not the correct diagnosis.
After three organs removed and 40+ hospital stays, she survived this nightmare and began a path of education that has created a primer of modern gadgets, tests and fail-safe strategies for people to investigate who have a proactive interest in their own health.
Robin writes about:
Wearable technologies and sensors: Look for smaller, less intrusive items that might be implanted under your skin, or in blood vessels.
These will give accurate and timely reads on blood pressure, blood sugar, hydration levels, temperature, perhaps transmitted to your smartphone.
Diabetics monitoring their blood sugar will be able to stay more even keel in their day-to-day health.
Look for Artificial Intelligence: Computers that can absorb and store massive amounts of information that physicians can’t keep up with, the latest research that physicians can access an accurate diagnosis quickly.
Incredible 3D Printing devices for creating prosthetics for people who have lost arms or legs, with even more functionality than a normal arm or leg.
We will be able to 3D print organs too, and Robin discusses these exciting possibilities.
Robotics, drone ambulances that can deliver medical devices or carry a human to the hospital!
Monsters and Critics had six questions for Robin Farmanfarmaian:
Monsters and Critics: I was shocked at what you went through as a teenager, the misdiagnoses, was this the impetus for writing this book?
Robin Farmanfarmaian: Yes, what I went through both as a teenager, and as an adult inspired me to write this book, in order to help all the other patients out there. My goal is to make sure people are as healthy and happy as possible. The underlying themes of the book are courage, perseverance, and taking responsibility for your own health in order to dramatically improve outcomes.
M&C: Are you concerned FitBit is struggling with sales? Or do you think the Wearable Technologies and Sensors field now is more advanced and FitBit needs to up their game?
RF: Wearable technology is an industry in its infancy – and FitBit is one of the companies that really put it on the map. Yes, FitBit will need to up their game against the major competition already in, and soon to be entering the market. At one time FitBit was really one of the only games in town and a trailblazer. I’d like to see them get some new innovative products to market that will set new standards again, which the industry will follow.
M&C: I would be interested in a device that consistently can monitor blood sugar AND blood pressure, is that even possible without the pinprick ordeal?
RF: Yes, there are a lot of companies working on monitoring blood sugar without a pinprick. At CES, the world’s first watch blood pressure cuff was launched, and Google filed patents last year for needleless blood draws. I can imagine a watch that combines the two –blood pressure monitor, and continuous blood draw or delivery system using micro-needles that you don’t feel, on the backside of the watch.
M&C: Do we think WebMd began the onslaught of patients diagnosing themselves or at the very least arming themselves like a schoolkid before they see their doctor to save time, or to make sure the Doctor knows their stuff?
RF: Yes, WebMD was one the of the first to get widespread knowledge out to the general public, as was DrGreene.com, the world’s first physician website in general, specifically focused on pediatrics. It was a great place to get easy-to-understand information on a specific disease or condition. This helped catalyze the revolution of patients having easy, reliable access to information outside their clinician’s office.
M&C: There’s a mixed bag when it comes to digitizing medical records. the recent Hospital in LA was held hostage as hackers stole their records and demanded payment in Bitcoin, which is hard to trace. How do large organizations protect these records sufficiently? It bothers me there are servers not up to standards that have my information. What about you?
RF: There will always be criminals – so understanding your risks as an individual is helpful. I’m not worried about criminals trying to get my medical data specifically, I worry about them getting access to my finances and identity through my medical data. With all of these new wearable tech devices, especially ones approved for clinical use that is tied into my medical records somehow.
These medical devices provide a back door for criminals to piggyback on and get access to social security numbers and other personal identifiers for financial gain or identity theft. I’m not worried about criminals using my blood pressure data, test results, or diagnostic results – in some rare cases, maybe they would use them for blackmail, but what it comes down to is identity theft.
Another scenario – say a healthcare professional has access to medical records through a portable computer, and this computer isn’t encrypted. When the healthcare professional signs on from another, non-encrypted location, they have just provided a way for a criminal to hack them through a back door.
The solution is encryption and secure Internet access. I’m also in conversations with an organization using block chain technology to securely store and transfer medical data, the secure technology behind Bitcoin.
That will be much harder to hack if even possible at all.
M&C: The beauty of the Internet is that the afflicted can find their “people.” whatever the disease or condition. How does this affect healing in your opinion?
RF: Access to people with a shared experience, in this case, a disease or condition, can be incredibly helpful.
If you are communicating with others who are going through similar things, you suddenly feel less alone in the world. This has a huge impact on your psychological state, which in turn has an impact on your body’s ability to heal.
Being able to connect with large social groups around a disease or condition is called using the “Power of the Crowd” – and it is helpful in countless ways.
With disease-specific sites, you can potentially find new information that you hadn’t heard about through your healthcare professional or reading about your condition.
This can include solutions, treatments, and ways to navigate or deal with a specific disease that you can’t find in the literature or through a clinician. One example is a case out of Crohnology – a peer to peer social networking site for patients with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
Through aggregating symptoms and treatments, Crohnology discovered that most patients with these 2 diseases can’t tolerate beer, but that is not something that was previously known.