MGMA18: Get ready for a new healthcare world by thinking like a consumer business, says Robin Farmanfarmaian

Robin Farmanfarmaian
"Are you going to be Kodak?" asked speaker Robin Farmanfarmaian. (Courtesy MGMA)

BOSTON—Picture this. A device will monitor blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes without all those constant finger sticks. And a pill that a patient swallows, which has a tiny camera to take pictures as it moves through the body, will replace colonoscopies.

Those are just a couple of examples of the innovative technology that is disrupting healthcare, said Robin Farmanfarmaian, a keynote speaker at the Medical Group Management Association annual conference in Boston this week.

Rapidly evolving technology is augmenting—and in some cases replacing—healthcare professionals, said Farmanfarmaian, a professional speaker and vice president of Actavalon, a biotech company that is developing treatments for cancer.

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Farmanfarmaian shared some of the innovations that allowed her to take control of her own health along with new technology from robots to remote patient-monitoring devices that is guaranteed to change the future. Her life goal: to impact 100 million patients worldwide, she said.

Robin Farmanfarmaian
Robin Farmanfarmaian
(Courtesy MGMA)

“Technology is hope,” said Farmanfarmaian, who underwent six major surgeries in her youth after she was misdiagnosed and lost three major organs. Today, her Crohn’s disease is under control with an intravenous infusion drug.

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Technology is putting patients in the driver’s seat, and its advances are enabling what she calls “the era of the patient.”

All of it is raising the bar on the interaction of patients and physicians, she said.

She echoed the story told by speaker Simon Sinek, who opened the conference. Sinek talked about Kodak, whose scientists had developed a digital camera—the first of its kind—but chose to suppress the technology because it feared it would ruin its photographic film business. Instead of having the foresight to change from a film company to a digital photography company, Kodak waited 10 years while others developed digital cameras and ended up filing for bankruptcy.

“Are you going to be Kodak?” Farmanfarmaian warned, urging healthcare leaders to change their own thinking.

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Her advice for doctors and practices?

Think like a consumer business, she said. American consumers want products that meet their unique personal needs, and companies such as Amazon and Apple, which are experts in engaging people, are getting into healthcare.

Ultimately, patients are going to expect the same experience in healthcare, she said.

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