Health Guide September 17, 2011
The Medicine 2.0 conference that began today gives me hope for medicine. The conference far exceeded my expectations. And now I even have hope for our health care system.
This three-day conference at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, brings together about 400 people, most of whom are health professionals. This includes about 20 of us who are “e-patients.”
This is a new and useful term that Tom Ferguson, M.D., coined. The term e-patients describes people “who are equipped, enabled, empowered, and engaged in their health and health care decisions.” That pretty well describes you and me!
Stanford University gave me a scholarship to come to the conference as one of the e-patients. And HealthCentral asked me to tell you about it.I networked with lots of people, including several friends who, like me, write about diabetes. One of my friends, Amy Tenderich, gave one of the first talks. In doing so she set the sort of positive tone that I use in all my articles.
“Negativity does not motivate,” Amy stated. “Positivity does.”
The first talk, the “introductory keynote,” was by someone you might know as the bestselling author of the novel Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese. Since I had been meaning to get and read this book, I was delighted that the conference’s organizing chairman, Dr. Larry Chu, gave me a personalized and autographed copy.
But Abraham Verghese, M.D., is much more than a famous novelist. He is the Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School.
It’s not that medicine doesn’t use technology already, and that is precisely medicine’s central challenge. Dr. Verghese showed how technology has in fact displaced the patient. Doctors study us with technology instead of studying us directly. Their focus is the data that they have on us.
I know from my experience with one of my former primary care physicians. When I saw him, he didn’t usually see me. Instead, almost all the time he was looking at the computer records that he had for me on his laptop.
Much of the enthusiasm that I shared with the rest of the group at today’s conference concerned the great applications of technology to medicine that the speakers told us about. One of the great grand-fathers of technology who has been a famous name to me since 1993 is Howard Rheingold. He is now a visiting lecturer at Stanford, and he spoke to us today.
But it was his book, The Virtual Community, that inspired me to start the first website of anyone with diabetes. I started mendosa.com in 1995 because of the gift economy of the Web that Howard wrote about and I quoted in an earlier article here. I made sure to grab Howard after his speech and talk with him one-on-one about what he had done for me -- as well as about his pre-diabetic condition.
Many more speakers followed, many more than I have room or time to write about. Every one was inspiring, something awfully rare in this sort of venue. In most conferences the action is in the hallways -- the networking -- instead of the conference room itself.
This one is different. The session have been just as productive as the meet-ups outside. I have hope that the two days that the conference, which will continue on Saturday and Sunday, will be just as great.