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Robin Farmanfarmaian    

Medical Entrepreneur, Patient & Futurist

Robin Farmanfarmaian is a professional speaker, entrepreneur and angel investor working on companies in cutting edge tech poised to impact 100M people or more. With over 140 speaking engagements in 14 countries, she educates audiences on technology, the future of healthcare, patient empowerment, building thought leadership, and more. Additionally, she has been on the founding or organizing team for more than 200 events and conferences, including many as Executive Director, Executive Producer, Chair, or President.

Farmanfarmaian has 3 published books: “The Patient as CEO: How Technology Empowers the Healthcare Consumer” (2015); "The Thought Leader Formula: Strategically Leverage Your Expertise to Drive Business & Career Goals" (2019); and "Facilitating Virtual Events: Driving Participant Engagement & Interaction" (2020).

Speech Topics

Exponential Technology & The Patient as CEO

Robin Farmanfarmaian examines how exponential and accelerating technology will enable the healthcare consumer, or "unpatient", to be the key decision maker, executor, driver and ultimately the one responsible on the healthcare team.

The Future of the Patient

Sensors, portable & affordable medical devices for remote monitoring, patient-provider connectivity, data and precision medicine are all major enablers in the future of patient driven healthcare. Women, as the traditional caretakers, will have increasing access to reliable and effective ways to be in control of their family’s health, putting them on even ground with men with respect to technological advancements. As just one example of gender separation, most medication dosing has been determined based on the average male. The promise of personalized and precision medicine, including personalized medication dosing, is especially important for women, and will have a larger positive impact on this gender.

The Future of the Doctor

Where doctors will need to become medical engineers, proficient in big data, genome literate, interact with Artificial Intelligence, technically adept, collaborative, and adaptable. Doctors will treat patients from thousands of miles away, utilizing technology like telepresence robots, tricorders, sensors, data tracking devices, and the cloud. Devices such as smart phone EKG machines and smart phone Ophthalmology Instruments will be ubiquitous, in every household in the world.

The Future of the Hospital

Enabled by sensors everywhere, combined with AI, voice activated EMRs, the patient experience becomes one of comfort instead of inconvenience or pain. A patient getting an infusion will sit down. Their blue tooth enabled epidermal electronics will transmit continuous vitals, eradicating the need for the nurse to constantly take vitals, allowing the nurse to focus on the personal touch and other, life saving tasks, and enhancing the patient experience as they won't be strapped down with wired monitors. Voice activated EMRs and sensors will greatly reduce cross contamination, as the healthcare worker won't need to touch as many surfaces as they do currently.

Patient Empowerment and the Future of Medicine:

The $3T Healthcare industry is integrating advancing technologies, changing everything from diagnostics to the patient experience. Robin's expertise showcases how the convergence of accelerating technology will enable the healthcare consumer to be the key decision maker and ultimately the one responsible on the healthcare team. Technologies including sensors, point-of-care diagnostics, 3D printing, tissue engineering, data, networks, cloud, artificial intelligence and robotics are intersecting healthcare at an increasing rate, fundamentally changing healthcare and allowing the patient to be in control of their own health.

Exponential Technology & The Future of Medicine:

What is the difference between Exponential and Linear with respect to technology? Robin Farmanfarmaian explains what these terms actually mean, including the 6 D’s of Exponential Technology (digitization, disruption, deception, dematerialization, demonetization, democratization), and ties them to real world example companies.

Robin then applies this foundation to the world of healthcare, and how the convergence of exponential technologies such as Robotics, Sensors, Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printing, Tissue Engineering, Networks and Connectivity are positively impacting medicine over the next 2, 5 and 10 years, both in the US and the developing world.

Corporate Innovation:

This talk dives into how corporations can easily innovate and stay ahead of being disrupted by technology over the next 2-10 years. Illustrated with real-world examples, some ways corporations can thrive in the context of innovation include: how to work with entrepreneurs and startups; internal and external incubators; venture arms; changing business models; and thinking 2 steps ahead of how your customers will be impacted by technology.

The Formula to Build Thought Leadership: How Executives can build their Expertise Profile:

The way corporations reach and interact with their customer base is shifting. The world of social media and Thought-Leadership provides a way to help drive your image and marketing messages in a way that works in today’s climate. Most CEOs now have a media profile, but how do you build one as an Executive or Entrepreneur? This talk breaks down Thought-Leadership into a formula, and provides a structure and understanding of the different tools one can use to build a media profile.


Robin Farmanfarmaian -- The Patient as CEO: Gene Sequencing, Virtual Reality and Drones

There are many bets being placed on the quantified self and the expanding initiative in health care and life sciences that relies on technology and data.

Robin Farmanfarmaian is a believer in the power of such technology, and has written a breezy overview of myriad developments across seemingly disparate industries in “The Patient as CEO.” I spoke with her about three such industry sectors: human genome sequencing, virtual reality and drones.

She is a firm believer that ‘technology is hope’ and is a living testament to the theory. After a misdiagnosis at the age of 16, Robin has been on a life-long journey enduring multiple surgeries (that resulted in several organ removals) and over three dozen hospitalizations. She has combined her role as a patient with that of an entrepreneur, advising a variety of early-stage startups.

Having seen the intriguing commercials for 23 and Me I asked her about human genome sequencing.

Not surprisingly, she had her genes sequenced years ago. As she notes, the cost of doing so has fallen dramatically over the recent years. The first full sequencing occurred in 2001 and cost $2.6 billion. Companies now offer services for hundreds of dollars. In her book she notes that “everything about you can be seen as just terabytes of data points.” The important factor is to have an expert handle the interpretation, “there are so many variables and misinformation is possible.” She points out that simple lifestyle behavior modification is a logical result of such sequencing interpretations, thereby decreasing risks associated with certain genetic indicators. When I asked her about the mammoth risk of such personal data being hacked, she countered that it is about the same risk associated with financial data. “Identity theft is scarier,” Robin asserts. “Would a criminal blackmail you about your genetic information?” She points out that the proliferation of medical devices could be a backdoor to financial or identity theft, as such devices are not always encrypted. She pointed to block chain technology as a solution to such encryption challenges. We will explore block chain in future installments.

The second topic we covered was virtual reality. I was familiar with all dollars pouring into VR as an entertainment platform, but I was uncertain about VR elsewhere. “VR will be a game changer in health care,” Robin promises. She reeled off a list of applications:

Training in medical school For those with chronic diseases, the ability to visit parts of the world too risky with disease transmission – when VR is overlaid with Google GOOGL +0.66% maps and combined with haptic feedback, the results can be remarkably lifelike Meetings with your doctor, without leaving the house Education and night classes at home

The third topic I wanted to discuss with Robin was drones. Leaving aside the explosive growth on the consumer side (another aspect we will cover in a future installment), Robin was ebullient about a one man ambulance drone she saw (and I missed) at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. With a 260 lb capacity, a doctor is sent to an accident victim, and the victim is sent back…far more quickly than an ambulance. The FCC regulation process sounds like another installment of the Lawyers Full Employment Act, and Robin concurs that deployment would be far easier in developing countries. Nearer on the horizon, so to speak, would be using drones to provide medicine to remote habitats. In her book she cites the example of deploying an automatic external defibrillator via drone; cardiac arrest victims need such AEDs quickly to survive.

In closing, I asked Robin how she stays up to speed on the rapidly shifting terrain she covers in her new book. “I attend a conference a week, so I am dialed in. I am a mentor and advisor to a large number of companies. My father is in the business, and I have curated my social media, so news is always pouring in. Plus, I live in the Bay Area, which is the epicenter of this activity.”

Colleagues in San Diego might bicker with her on the last point, but everyone is in harmony that life sciences and health care is undergoing tectonic changes. Robin’s recent book is a great portal and roadmap to this new terrain.

Hospitals Beware, Patients Are The New CEOs

When Robin Farmanfarmaian was a teenager, she was misdiagnosed with an autoimmune disease. In total, she had six major surgeries, was hospitalized 43 times, and had three organs removed. Robin was transmitted from hospital to hospital. She was taking a bunch of medication. She was having surgeries that turned out to be incorrect. While most teenagers were misunderstood, Robin was misdiagnosed. Over and over again.

Robin is not a sick teenager anymore. She is a medical futurist and entrepreneur. She has started multiple companies, sits on the board of directors for the Organ Preservation Alliance, and is Vice President at INVICTA Medical. She specializes in understanding how accelerated technology is impacting and disrupting every industry and economy over the next 5-10 years.

I met Robin a few months ago when we were both speaking at the same conference in Mexico. Let me tell you, she is a rockstar. But she knows that in order to keep making massive change in the world, she needs to be healthy, and she has taken control of her health. In fact, she has made it her life’s work to empower others who are sick and suffering to know something very important:

Technology is hope, and we are moving into an era where the patient is in control of their future and wellness.

To share her message, Robin wrote the book, The Patient as CEO. I read it in one day. I could not put it down. It is like reading the future, which is exciting and empowering and mind-blowing. Until recently, the insurance companies, not the patients, were the customers in the medical system. The insurance companies paid the bills, and the patient was just an afterthought. Robin’s book shows how this is all changing.

As soon as I finished The Patient as CEO, I wrote Robin. I wanted to know her story. I wanted to know her favorite parts of the book. Here were a few of her favorite future ideas that will change the patient experience forever.

Wearable Technologies and Sensors: You have probably heard of current wearable sensor technologies like Fitbit. It tracks your steps and heart rate. That’s nice. But soon we will have access to wearable technologies that are much smaller and less intrusive than a bulky band around your wrist. Sensors that can be placed behind your ears, under your skin, or even inside of blood vessels. These devices will be able to give you accurate readings of your blood pressure, blood sugar and hydration levels, your temperature, everything. Then the data will be transmitted to your smartphone. You will be able to see all of your numbers in the palm of your hand. Diabetics are tired of poking themselves multiple times a day to gauge their blood sugar. I get a headache when I am dehydrated. This technology will help diabetics monitor their blood sugar and inform me when I need to drink more water throughout the day. No more painful blood draws, no more headaches. Yes, please.

Artificial Intelligence: There is this thing called IBM Watson, which is an artificially intelligent computer system created by IBM. It beat the Jeopardy champion in 2011, but that was years ago. It is even smarter now. Watson has gone to medical school. It has read millions of pages of medical textbooks, as well as millions of medical journal articles. The hope is that this practice will allow Watson to make fast, accurate diagnoses for patients and decisions for the hundreds of thousands of clinical trials that go on in the world every year. Physicians can’t keep up with that case-load and massive amount of research and data coming at them (which is going to continue to increase), but Watson can. This is a win-win, because the physicians can get accurate diagnosis quickly. Watson mines all the patient data and provides a diagnosis to the doctor. The diagnosis is evidence based and free of cognitive bias. By shifting some of the work to AI, the doctor will have more time to do important things, like interacting directly with the patient and really connecting with them, explaining things, answering their questions and worries.

Power of the Crowd: It is lonely to be a patient. You can seek support from your friends, families, and loved ones, but how much do these people want to talk about your issues? They don’t know what it is like to feel sick 24 hours a day. But other patients that have the same condition as you are also thinking about their issues and seeking solutions. The power of the crowd offers both a support system and also key insights. The ‘crowd’ can shed insight into possible triggers of the condition, which could be helpful for you. There are many social networks that are for specific diseases like IBD, diabetes, and cancer, to name just a few. Patients can rate pain days, post about what medications work well, fill out questions about what makes them feel better or worse, interact with other patients who are just like them. This can result in some surprising insights. For example, on one specific social networking site for the autoimmune disease IBD, by aggregating all the patients’ self reported data on the site, the community discovered that most of the patients there can’t tolerate drinking beer, it brings on a disease flare. That information was nowhere in the literature, and doctors didn’t know their patients felt sick when they had beer. Your doctor thinks about your specific condition and situation for 15 minutes, maybe twice a year. You think about it non-stop. So do those in your ‘crowd.’

Robin also pointed out the data implications of the crowd. There are currently hundreds of millions of patients whose data can be aggregated, studied and analyzed, and organized in a cohesive and uniform way across a number of institutions (another chance for AI convergence).

Robin then encouraged me to see the ‘power of the crowd’ broader. Companies like Uber are lending to patients being the CEO. Uber can pick-up patient medications, instead of burdening your family or expensive medical staff to go to the pharmacy. The power of the crowd gives many patients the power of independence. Need to get somewhere? Use Uber. Hungry? Open the Instacart app, get groceries delivered in about an hour or 2. When you’re too sick to run errands, use Postmates to get your dry cleaning, medication, and grab a meal at your favorite restaurant that doesn’t deliver – and all of these for a cost low enough that most people can afford them. All those companies use the power of the crowd as their workforce, thus allowing the cost of the task or delivery to be extremely low. The reason the cost is now accessible to most people is that when you use the power of the crowd as consultants, they don’t need office space, benefits, salaries, etc – so the corporation’s costs are considerably lower, and they can pass on that savings to you. Suddenly, the average American has access to what feels like a full time staff.

3D Printing: Soon, we are going to be living in a world where anything you can think of will be printed in your house. We will even be able to 3D print 3D printers. Thanks to 3D printing, we can now print prosthetics for people who have lost arms or legs. 3D printing provides an opportunity to actually improve upon the human form. Imagine prosthetics that can rotate 360 degrees, giving even more functionality than a normal arm or leg. We will be able to 3D print organs. Think about this – newborn babies are small and fragile. If an operation is needed, the margin of error is minute for a physician. Doctors can now scan the internal organs of these children, 3D print them, and then practice on the printed organ before performing surgery, and use it as a model during the surgery. This will allow them to know exactly where to cut and at what angle. This will greatly reduce the amount of time the patient is on the operating table, and save lives. Lots of them.

For bone fractures, we can 3D print casts to fit your arm perfectly. They are plastic, so waterproof, can have holes in them for scratching, and designed in ways you like. With 3D printing, complexity is free. Everything that is 3D printed can be absolutely unique, and it costs the same amount of money to print a cast in purple, as it does one with a specific pattern of holes, any design, completely personalized to the individual.

Robotics: The book gives example after example of robotics, but we focused on the role drones will play. Two ideas are particularly exciting as related to the drone ambulance. The first is a drone ambulance that flies defibrillators to heart attack victims. There is a company out of the EU working on drones that will potentially fly 60 miles per hour, and the idea is to get the life-saving device to the victim within 60 seconds of the heart attack, and dramatically increase survival rates. There is also a second ambulance that can carry humans from the place of the incident to the hospital. These drones are hoping to be able to carry the weight of one human. So, the drone will originate in the hospital with the health care professional. Then, the drone and health care professional will fly to the person who had a heart attack. Once they land, the health care professional would strap the victim into the drone, and they would fly back to the hospital. Time is a big reason heart attack victims die. This would be a solution.

And that is what I felt the entire time I was talking to Robin and reading her book. It was one solution after another. One mind-blowing innovation after the next. Humans coming together to end the suffering, to ease the pain, and to provide wellness that works. And somehow, even amidst all of the innovation and technology, I felt it. In all of her words and big picture thinking, I felt it. In all of the robots and AI and printed organs, I felt it.

What was the feeling?

Hope. I felt hope.

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