As a mother of two, home health caretaker for the elderly, and Sunday school teacher for kids with special needs, my aunt Gwyn has always been a natural caretaker. She’s responsible for other peoples’ health and well-being, and at just 52, she did not expect to become a patient herself. That was until March of 2013, when she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. After being diagnosed, Gwyn put her care-taking business on hold and spent the next year battling the cancer. After a lumpectomy, partial breast radiation, and six rounds of chemo, she was finally declared cancer-free.
Fast forward four years and the cancer has metastasized to her lungs, stage IV. This news was devastating and frustrating, but not debilitating. Gwyn wants to continue doing what she does best – care taking, and this time she won’t let the cancer stop her.
Gwyn’s treatment regimen includes Ibrance, Letrozole, and monthly shots of Zoledex to suppress estrogen. Each month she goes to the oncology center at Georgetown University Hospital where her Zoledex is delivered by a courier robot. The robot is efficient and fast, allowing her to be in and out of the hospital in less than an hour.
A so called “blue collar” robot that brings medicine from point A to point B may not seem revolutionary, but small improvements like these can transform patient care for people like my Aunt Gwyn.
Health IT has enabled her to keep her business running, spend more time with her family, and maintain freedom and normalcy in her life in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
We know that technology and robots are already transforming healthcare in huge ways (think surgical robots performing minimally invasive procedures, and tools to automatically route patient data and images when switching providers), but small improvements can be just as impactful, particularly to the patient experience. Today, robots and developments in machine learning pick up the slack in hospitals to optimize workflows, and I’m excited to see how health IT will continue to improve patient care and respond to the needs of modern healthcare consumers.