Transforming Global Health Care: The Power of Personal Health Technologies




At age 19, when Eric Dishman was diagnosed with cancer, full kidney failure and given 9 months to live he believed the diagnosis. He admits that the moment he heard the prognosis of “9 months and cancer” he became a “passive patient.”

Dishman shared his personal story about his battle with cancer and his healthcare experiences. He talked about the transformation he had to “make the health care system do” for an eventually “proactive patient” like himself.

Through his experience, Dishman discerned that “diagnostic boxes have a powerful gravity. The diagnosis labels a patient from that point forward.” He discovered that the “label” may not be questioned after that point of diagnosis – not by the provider and not by the patient. The focus becomes the treatment or other means of dealing with the disease or ailment.



Eventually, Dishman started becoming a proactive patient by doing simple things like tracking his own data, analyzing it, and correlating his pain levels with the exercise that he used to deal with the pain of cancer. Later, he advanced to advocating for himself to have chemotherapy at home, in lower doses and over long periods of time.

Dishman’s experiences lead him to believe, “Health care has a longevity obsession. They try to make people live as long as possible- even if they are miserable.”

Dishman-QuoteDespite the odds, Dishman beat cancer for 23 years longer than the doctors ever said he could survive! He became cancer-free and received a kidney transplant two years ago.

Dishman’s story offers this advice to healthcare providers:

  • Treat people as “complex adaptive individuals.”
  • The default should be care at home, with minimal amount of disruption to patients’ lives. (if that is their goal)
  • Accept and support “proactive patients.”

Dishman hopes by sharing his story, he can help undo “the gravity of the passive patient” by helping other patients move from the passive phase to the proactive phase and be managers of their own bodies!


Guest blog post from Theresa Lewis, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs 


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