Since joining the GoKart Labs team about a year ago, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with coworkers and clients to help solve complicated digital problems in some highly regulated industries, like finance, education, and healthcare.
Because of my job, I get a front-row seat to some of the most exciting innovations and startups in healthcare especially. But recently, I had the opportunity to see things even more closely from the other side: the patient’s perspective.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t pretty.
This February, I had to undergo a rare, invasive surgery to remove a section of my trachea that was restricting my airway. While the 4-hour procedure went exactly according to plan, I still spent a week recovering in the ICU, unable to speak or eat. It was a major procedure, requiring a lot of monitoring from my medical team.
Naturally, I had a dozen questions swirling in my overactive, anxiety-prone brain every minute: My shoulder looks swollen; is that normal? How long will I be on these meds? How can I reduce the appearance of my new scar? But I was unable to connect directly with my surgeon or get answers on my own terms. It was always a waiting game, sitting on my questions until my medical team made their rounds in the ICU or until my next appointment with my surgeon. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t an immediate, easier way to message him my concerns directly.
This was a major source of frustration for someone like me who has grown accustomed to getting so many of my basic needs met via digital experiences — anything from booking a flight to ordering a pizza. Why couldn’t I connect with my surgeon as quickly and seamlessly as I could find a ride or even a mortgage quote? I could practically order, track and receive a new book from Amazon Prime faster than I could ask my surgeon a simple question.
Clearly, digital innovation in healthcare has limitations in how patients can connect directly with providers. But for how much longer? While heavy regulations and security concerns may stand in the way today, there’s a desire to get helpful, personalized answers as quickly as possible. Because of the current process? It’s not ideal. Companies like Virtuwell and Oscar understands this and are offering a different option to the whole “research doctors and insurance, make an appointment, physically go to an appointment” approach. But what about patients like me who don’t just have strep throat, who instead struggle with a rare medical condition that requires a specialist?
After my experience, I have a whole new level of empathy for the patients we’re trying to help with technology. Being sick is stressful. Isolating. Terrifying. I plan on injecting my new firsthand insights into my work from here on out, because placing a monetary value on making a patient feel safe, informed, supported, connected and cared for is not possible. And yet, it’s absolutely invaluable.