I have always had a doctor in my pocket.
Which Over the Counter (OTC) allergy med is the best if I don’t want to be drowsy? Text Dad.
My best friend was just diagnosed with a rare disease. Call Dad.
Do we need to go to the ER? Facetime Dad.
My dad is the doctor in my pocket. As an MD PhD professor at one of the best research medical centers in the world, having his expertise available — at no charge — is like having a skeleton key to the whole health care system. I can open any door and be greeted with open arms.
For the first 26 years of my life, I lived in a blissful bubble of rapid treatment, cordiality and ease.
And I thought everyone experienced healthcare the way I did. Surely everyone else had a doctor in their pocket, too?
No. Not even close.
Fast forward to last week when I was in the ER for an infection. The waiting room was packed with panicked patients, desperate for answers and care. I saw spouses trying to console their loved ones with dementia as they waited to be triaged, kids crying in pain and fear, the tired eyes of people trying to figure out where to go in the hospital. I sat calmly in my chair, trusting the ER department, knowing that a two-hour wait to be seen by the attending was typical. I had my powerbank for my phone, access to wifi, wrote my symptoms down chronologically, a list of medications ready for the nurse. I was unafraid, not because I knew I was getting treatment, but because all my healthcare experiences till now have been positive. I could articulate my ailments, I could understand the doctor’s shorthand, I could let them know my needs and I could always call dad.
Everyone else didn’t have that same privilege.
As I went through the ER, being tested, seen, diagnosed, and treated, I had the power and confidence that I was in control. If I didn’t understand something, I would ask my dad for his opinion. Did I need blood cultures? Yes. Were the antibiotics ordered the right kind? Yes. My dad, the doctor in my pocket, wasn’t concerned about my insurance coverage or history. He just wanted me to get the best treatment.
And so did the care providers. Yet, as a patient with the knowledge and confidence to navigate the ER, the care I received was a little less patronizing. A little more on equal footing than the treatment I saw of the other patients who were lost in the system. I had an advocate in my pocket. What did they have?
Today, even with the best care options and fierce patient advocacy communities, if you are not a member of the health literati you are an outsider. You are powerless in a system that even health professionals struggle to navigate. With the many silos, bureaucratic obstacles, and competing interests, it is near impossible to care for ourselves in such a broken system.
As new health technologies and innovations deploy, I can’t help but wonder if they will really be able to solve the biggest issues in healthcare?
Who will advocate for us? Who will help us find the solutions when we are at our worst?
While technologists continue to unleash new features, trinkets and shiny bright objects claiming to alleviate our healthcare woes, most of us will never know what it’s like to have a doctor in our pocket.
At WellPlay, it is my mission to scale healing. Everyone deserves to have a doctor in their pocket. Everyone deserves to be empowered in their own health and wellbeing. With a focus on digital self-care, health engagement and bodily integrity, I use entertainment to improve health outcomes. I invite you to follow me along this journey. Together we can create a new narrative for health.