Stanford’s Medicine X ’13: A Nursing Recap


medicine, social media, healthcare, technology


Stanford’s Medicine X conference in Palo Alto, California is a patient-centric melding of medicine and technology.  With both the live video feed and tweets flying, those not physically present may have forgotten they were simply – on their couch.


Poignant and humorous at times, statements such as these are heard at Medicine X:

“Scheduling your tweets is like sending a mannequin to a cocktail party.” (Dr Vartabedian)
“The busiest doctor in the world is Dr. Google.”  (Michael Seres)
“I tried to get Hallmark to make hospice cards.” (Regina Holliday)
“Scanxiety” – Aforenamed mammography anxiety. (Liza Bernstein)
“Sitting is the new smoking”…. “Why not make the house the sensor – make the materials that sense the environment.” (Ted Turner)


Am I Hearing This?

One of the beautiful things about Medicine X is the dialogue. Let’s get real – I mean where on earth do you hear a doctor with a microphone saying things like this:

“I gave a patient with pneumonia antibiotics and my cell phone number.  I told her to call me if she got any worse; she didn’t call me and ended up in ICU.
I thought – why didn’t she call me?
Then I thought — WHY DIDN’T I CALL HER?”

~Dr. Jordan Shlain creator of

I must admit in the room full of mostly entrepreneurial doctors and medical students I was the lonely clapper, but that didn’t matter to me.  From my nursing and patient perspective, they simply didn’t make the connection – this was incredible.


Doctors And Patients Working Together

Dr. Rajiv Mehta caught my attention with his thoughtful responses and kind demeanor.

“I don’t talk to patients, I talk to people.” (Yes!)

For the record, this isn’t average break room talk at hospitals across America; but we are all human at the end of the day and this is what my ears and heart want to hear – it’s contagious.
He went on to make me laugh stating as far as health is concerned – “I ask my wife what to do.” (He’s clearly a smart man.)

When Dr. Mehta turned to statistics and health technology the numbers spoke a thousand words: “99% of the time we are taking care of ourselves“.  Tally the minutes you spend interacting with your doctor every year and the bottom line isn’t impressive.  Which then begs the question – where exactly is the health technology for this sector?  Perhaps this gives fodder to the growing popularity of shared medical appointments.

Dr.Roni Zeiger referred to medicine as a “two person sport” (which I incidentally view as a team effort); speaking on patient-provider collaboration he stated: “Let’s see what we can figure out together.” This statement was music to my ears.  I absolutely loved this response that served to jog my memory of a similar approach to meaningful care in My Grandfather’s Blessings by Dr. Rachel Remen.  This style of practicing medicine is spot on.

I appreciate the way Dr. Zeiger thinks and tweets.  @rzeiger:
“The second most underutilized resource in healthcare: nursing.” #MedX

Empathy for patients and providers alike was at an all time high at Medicine X.  Raw emotion poured from epatients in their ignite speeches and panels had beautiful interactions between patients, caregivers and providers alike.


Engaged Patients

Patients are on the sharp end of the stick – literally – not to be confused with the short end of the stick.  Patients’ are connected and smart, approaching appointments with more information than physicians may be armed with.  Informed patients are growing by the masses and providers are finding themselves adjusting positions on the playing field.

It’s become critical for providers to engage and refer patients to online resources.
Dr. Berci Mesko stated: “To teach me, first you have to reach me.”

Patients are pushing for the release of their records and data that is rightfully theirs.

I imagine the lost possibilities my type 1 diabetes data could have provided over the past 30 years.  If I could only gather the disconnected pieces of paper and now digital information, it would provide me with a functional digital tool.  In contrast, my young daughter’s entire record is digital because she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 6 years ago; yet I physically have minimal data without full access to her records.

Data over the course of a lifetime with chronic disease can be an incredibly powerful tool, especially to those who are the data collectors 24/7.  A graphical representation of a lifetime of data tracking has been recycled.  Imagine what that picture would show – could others learn from our successes with this disease?  These visions excite me – simple, practical and streamlined applications for the data we’re already collecting.


The Future Holds Promise

The intersection of technology and medicine doesn’t come cheap.  On average it takes seven years and a million plus dollars to have a health tech idea adopted, according to Dr. Shlain.  He went on to define medicine as a “freakosystem” calling more brothers to arms to fix ongoing issues through entrepreneurialism; it was evident – there is no “ecosystem” in medicine.

The potential applications and widespread use for Google Glass in the patient environment was explored and sounds dreamy, but could they stand the test of time?  Truthfully, one of the first things patients lose is their eyeglasses in the sheets and blankets – I’m always helping patients look for them.  Nevertheless, this technology is exciting and fun to wear – I had the opportunity to sport a pair while at Medicine X.

Wearable devices have me puzzled; don’t get me wrong – I do see their potential value, but I can’t escape the thought that they are for people without disease dying to measure something.  I’m personally ‘over measured’ and not interested in wearing or managing anything else – unless it’s built into my bra and it eases the burden of disease management.  Sonny Vu of Misfit Wearables states his focus is currently on adapting the aesthetics of his devices and did admit the largest percentage of users are healthy.

As a nurse my heartfelt concerns always circle back to the same sweet space.  Humanness must simply be kept alive in this new and evolving model of medicine.  Technology serves to open doors creating simplifications, but it taxes it in other areas as well.

 As Dr Rivas states: “No amount of technology will allow a doctor to have good communication skills.”

Eye contact, human touch, the physical exam, and developing a personal relationship with the patient are indispensable pieces of medicine – these can’t go by the wayside for keyboards and computer monitors.  It’s essential that we maintain a sense of compassion and understanding of the human condition while using all tools at our disposal – exploring them with an open heart and mind.


{Thank you to Larry Chu and WEGO Health for supporting patients’ involvement at Medicine X!}


  1. Annette says:

    Reading your post makes me wish that I had data going back over the life of my chronic disease. I have seen some illuminating timelines from others who tracked.
    My doctor had a great pilot program that produced a graph of aggregated data for each visit, but after 3 years the program was no longer supported so it was all lost. It was interesting to see how some factors made very little difference over all.

  2. kathy Oberbeck says:

    Great and informative. Some doctors do get it. As a nurse I agree that we need more patient centered care

  3. Stacy Strayer says:

    Incredible article – it’s reassuring to know that this event takes place and that it attracts the ‘best of the best’ – it’s the perfect venue for groundbreaking ideas to be hatched, just as others are being shared and shaped. Thanks for the recap!!

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