The Real Patient in The Digital World

I was delighted with the enthusiastic response to the concepts I presented in my talk on the digital patient at the 11th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-11) in Barcelona this week. Though there’s nothing new in what I presented, it appears there are still new ears to hear the message of the new era of connected health, self-efficacy and self-empowered patients.   Often when people hear the term ‘digital revolution’, they think of technology such as mobile health apps and trackers, but equally powerful and no less impactful is the quiet revolution in healthcare that is happening in virtual communities like ours.

We are joining together to form virtual communities of information and support, giving rise to what has been termed peer-to peer healthcare – a way for people to do what they have always done to help each other, but at internet speed and at internet scale. Even after a decade of being in this space, I am still in awe of the power of social networking and blogging to connect and support us through our collective cancer experience. Before the Internet connected people from every corner of the globe, many of us experienced a terrible sense of isolation when we were first diagnosed with cancer. But now but with the Internet any person, anywhere, any time can find someone else in similar circumstances.

In the future, new online tools will come and they will go, but our innate desire to reach out, to connect, and to help one another will remain. It’s people who ultimately build communities, not technology. The communities may be virtual, but they are no less real. It’s still individuals speaking to other individuals, people helping other people. I continue to be so grateful to you all for walking with me on my own journey with cancer. The ties that bind us together are no less powerful because they are virtual. Just as the hardest steel is forged in the hottest fires, so too, our bonds as a community have been forged and strengthened through our own struggles and triumphs.  My gratitude to you all is ever-lasting.