If medtech wants to start attaching things to my body outside of the clinic, we better talk

  • Posted on 09.10.2014

If medtech wants to start attaching things to my body outside of the clinic, we better talk


Editors’ Note: This post is part of a series on Consumerisation of Care. Follow the conversation and learn from experts using the Twitter hashtag #mtf2014.

The practice of medicine is meant to keep people well or help them get well so they can live a full, productive life. Technology provides tools toward that goal. It can help relieve pain and suffering or prevent it. But too often we get so excited about technology we lose sight of what’s really important, helping human beings live better. And when it comes to the millions of people living with chronic conditions, and now “chronic cancers”, we need to really understand their lives with an illness to know how technology can help.

I am a medical journalist since the mid-80’s who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1996 and then a second blood cancer in 2011. Modern medicines have saved my life both times and I am very grateful. I am also someone who loves technology, even though – as a lay person – I don’t always completely understand it. Years ago I produced videos on digital ultrasound and I marvelled at how doctors could see tremendous detail inside the body, sparing patients’ tremendous trauma. Now I am excited by the prospect of “wearable health.” For example, could a device check my blood counts and zap the results to my doctor? Could some other device analyse bone marrow structure without having to poke me with a huge needle? These are just two examples of where technology is probably headed. You may know all about it, but I , as a patient don’t. But I‘d like to. It gives me hope to live better even though I have cancer. I want my doctors to have the information they need. I just don’t like having to spend so much time bringing it to them in person.

So far I have found medical technology companies have said it’s “not our job.”

There are powerful stories to be documented of real patients with real problems that technology can help solve. But you need to sit down with patients and listen. The pharmaceutical companies are beginning to learn they need to listen as well as spend millions on talking at patients. Frankly, we patients rarely use the pharma websites because they rarely are updated, partly because of regulatory constraints and slow processes – too slow for patients. But beyond what pharma does, my experience is that medical technology companies have done very little with patients. I have tried to convince them that they are not on the side-lines of the doctor to patient or patient to patient discussion. They should be part of the main game, a supporter of it. So far I have found medical technology companies have said it’s “not our job.” I don’t agree. And if you start wanting to attach things to my body outside of the clinic we better talk! And talk way before you launch a product where you listen.

I don’t mean to be bold. I understand medical technology companies have traditionally not interacted much with patients. But now they should. It’s because the real customer is the patient, sometimes the entire family. And there is no reason why medical technology companies should not see it that way and actively facilitate more active, two-way communications starting right now.

That’s my view and I look forward to hearing yours.

-Andrew Schorr, Founder Patient Power 

Andrew will be speaking on the panel, “Health consumerism and newcomers – a double blessing for MedTech?” on October 17th at the MedTech Forum. Follow the discussions via #mtf2014 

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