No one ever wants to come forward and talk about the issues we have with the current healthcare system — and how the future of healthcare will help to correct them. There’s a reason for that. Going on record to talk about it can put your job at risk, which is why many of the leading lights in the fight for the future are self-employed or working on the side of the technology giants. It’s a classic case of the elephant in the room, combined with the fear-based mentality of big businesses. They’re afraid of change.
Writing my book, The Future of Healthcare: Humans and Machines Partnering for Better Outcomes, was a risk. If you fight the system, the system fights back, whether you’re a physician, a patient or an organization. But we’re all human beings who are capable of thinking for ourselves. There’s so much knowledge that’s trapped inside the industry because people aren’t empowered to voice their opinions, and it’s a tragedy. It’s political, and politics has no place in medicine.
The good news is that disruption is inevitable, and it’ll come whether people speak out against the current system or not. I just take it upon myself to usher in the change because let’s face it — better healthcare systems saves lives, and if a single life is saved because of my work then I can sleep soundly.
We all already know that not everybody likes disruption. The term itself sounds almost threatening, but it’s not as threatening as metathesiophobia (the fear of change). Change has to happen — if it doesn’t, we can never progress.
But not all physicians are comfortable with the rate of change, and they can even strike back against it — and against their patients for adopting it. As Paul Gallagher explains in an article for iNews, “GPs are threatening to remove patients from their practice lists if they have relied on ‘Dr Google’ to find out what’s wrong with them before their appointment. People have been mocked, shouted at and left feeling intimidated for carrying out their own internet research by doctors who fear ‘a loss of power’. Many are left dreading appointments for fear of their doctor’s response. The practice has become widespread enough for clinical leaders to educate GPs on how to not dismiss patients’ research so readily.”
This is fundamentally wrong, at least in my book. Doctors should be quick to embrace a second opinion, and the patient is likely to understand their own symptoms more than the doctor ever could. Of course, we should remember to be skeptical of “Dr. Google”, but sometimes Dr. Google is right. Even when he’s not, he might lead you to a correct diagnosis, and it’s better to rule something out early than to rule it in late.
And finally there’s the fact that by lashing out at patients who research their symptoms, physicians are sending out a signal that patients should have no input into their own healthcare. Instead, we should celebrate the fact that they’re looking into it and trying to use this momentum to encourage them to follow other healthy practices, like quitting smoking, exercising more or eating more healthily.
As a former practicing physician myself, I’ll tell you right here and now that there’s no excuse for dismissing a patient’s research without looking at it. And yet doctors are doing it constantly, all over the world. What a waste.
But things will change. It’s inevitable. All we can do is help to usher it in, which is what I plan to do. For example, I have this passion and this vision to create the world’s largest social media health platform. The Facebook of healthcare. The opportunities we have to engage with users and to collect data are quite simply enormous.
And there are plenty of high-profile entrepreneurs and businessmen who agree with me. For example, Apple COO Jeff Williams recently talked about the company’s potential to disrupt the healthcare industry by saying, “Probably one of the most significant examples of [new hardware and AI] is the opportunity to use transistor tech advances and power scaling to revolutionize healthcare. We think the health industry is ripe for change. We think there is tremendous potential to do on-device computing, to do cloud computing as well, and to take that learning through machine learning, deep learning and ultimately artificial intelligence, changing the way healthcare is delivered. We can’t think of anything more significant than this.”
Neither can I.