Stanford’s Medicine X conference was definitely the best health-related event of any kind I’ve ever attended. Launched by Dr. Larry Chu and an incredible group of collaborators a couple of years ago, it has grown into a special experience bringing together patients, healthcare practitioners, researchers, and technology companies to create change around major healthcare challenges that affect all of us.
There were many ideas and experiences from MedX that had a big impact on me but for the sake of keeping this article relatively short, here are just five of them:
1. We can all get along.
Too often, when there’s a conference or some kind of workshop happening in the health sector, it’s focused on engaging a particular group of people–only startups, or only healthcare practitioners, only patients, etc. I think this is partly because there’s an assumption that mixing the different groups wouldn’t work. They wouldn’t speak the same language, they wouldn’t have the same interests, there would be fist-fights. But the reality is quite different. I would say that all of our group’s most innovative ideas during the IDEO Design Challenge were a direct result of having a multidisciplinary group that could spot common needs and opportunities between seemingly disparate individuals and sectors. The innovation happening was a direct result of the diversity in the room.
2. ePatients = superPeople.
I was so impressed with the ePatient delegates and scholars at MedX. The expertise and the passion that they all brought to discussions at MedX was so inspiring. There’s no school where you can go to learn how to be an expert patient or an expert in your own health or a loved one’s. It’s only something people learn on their own, often through incredible challenges. Learn more about the Stanford MedX ePatient scholars program here.
3. Organ (re)design is coming.
There was a 3D bio-printer quietly printing away in a corner of an exhibition area at MedX. There’s lots of excitement around the possibility of printing replacement organs, but as I watched the printer, it occurred to me that we’re really underestimating the imaginative capacity of people if we think they’re only going to make copies of existing organs. The ability to print organs means we’ll be able to design entirely new organs with completely original functions. The possibilities and questions are endless. The word “cyborg” is a combination of “cybernetic” and “organism”, so what do you call a human with implanted technology that’s built entirely of their own living cells? A bioorg? Is it still an implant if it’s made of your cells? And what will it mean to say they’re “your” cells or its “your” body if it’s crafted with a patented printer and you had to purchase it? The uncertainties are enough to make a bioethicist’s head explode. But don’t worry, we’ll be able to print her another one.
4. #mhealth broke mental health research.
Here’s an interesting challenge that I heard discussed several times at MedX: How do you do research on the effectiveness of a mental health app if it can take a year or more for the research to make its way to publication, by which time the app could have gone through multiple iterations and be completely different from when you started your research? Our old ways of doing research on treatments were designed for a very different way of doing treatment. So those old approaches to research will need to evolve as well.
5. If you don’t have patients involved in your healthcare conference/service design/workshop/product development…
…you’re missing out. And it’s going to cost you.