Taking Patient Engagement Into the Shark Tank

Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban weighed into the healthcare conversation last week and lit up the Twitterverse. While the topic–patient engagement and ownership of health data–has been growing in magnitude and number of influential players, to have a high-profile influencer like Cuban enter into the mix and accelerate the conversation is a bit of an unexpected (or perhaps calculated?) gift. For those who didn’t see Cuban’s three tweets that engaged @Eric_Topol, @charlesornstein, @danmunro and more, here is what started it all:

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We need more innovators with the resources of Mark Cuban to jump into the conversation around engaging patients in their health and changing healthcare for the better. To have those ready and willing to invest in validating the value of being empowered by owning our own data is priceless. Waiting for the traditional pathways to decide how we will do so is taking too long. With technology exploding around the ensconced world that is traditional medicine there are far too many viable options available. Theranos, created by Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes, is one such innovative company now said to be valued at $9B. Holmes is brilliant and is trying to democratize medicine — to make it affordable and less painful and scary for every person to have their blood drawn, and as a result, better understand their own health. My hunch is that Cuban has a stake in Theranos, and more power to them both. This is access to care and innovation without the roadblocks of the traditional route.

Funny how sometimes the house of cards built by information fall together. Dan Munro once again beat me to the punch on this topic, as we have been talking about patient engagement versus a patient’s responsibility versus commitment to one’s health for some time in our own healthcare circles. To watch the attention this topic has pulled from the power levels of business and healthcare via social media is both exciting and validating. Patients, however, still need to be invited into the conversation and Twitter feeds, and this may just prove to be the true value in having Cuban involved. His 2.8M Twitter followers were just pulled into a conversation rarely invited or influenced to engage in.

And finally, the debate over how often or why/why not to test your blood quarterly per Cuban’s suggestion is a curious one. I understand all too well the argument for overtreatment, as colleague and author of The Treatment Trap and Wall of Silence, Rosemary Gibson, speaks of it often. But is this the same overtreatment patients need to be wary of? The trip to the cath lab when medical management will do? The shoulder or back surgery when physical therapy may prove far better? Or worse, the criminals who prescribe chemotherapy for patients that do not really have cancer?

This truly is about something else altogether–something bigger and better. This is a reminder that our world is changing quickly, and with it, our ability to know more about our bodies and our health is too. That knowledge truly is power, and why should care providers be the only ones holding the deck? When patients are engaged in their health, the research so important to those opposing Cuban’s advice shows all have better outcomes. As Cuban explains in a recent Health Care Blog conversation, he has been engaging in his own health for some time:

…What I do know is that I’m in firmer control of my day to day health…there is value when I review my results annually with my doctor , having the last 3 results to compare to. Now that I have a history of data looking at the results isnt stressful. Its the opposite. Its comforting.

And I feel far more confident that if and when I get sick, having those numbers will make me and my doctor smarter in our decision making process.

I know that healthcare needs more Mark Cubans. So much so, that while I thought Shark Tank to be a somewhat intriguing TV concept before, I am even more inclined to watch knowing he is engaging not only in his own health so thoughtfully, but also because he may be keeping an eye out for the next Theranos.

Stay tuned to ETY as we continue to elevate the conversation around patient engagement, patient and care team partnerships and more in the coming weeks. Please share your thoughts!

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