Author Q&A: A patient’s perspective of advanced medical technology and rising privacy risks

By Byron V. Acohido

A close friend of mine, Jay Morrow, has just authored a book titled “Hospital Survival.”

Related: Ransomware plagues healthcare

Jay’s book is very personal. He recounts a health crisis he endured that began to manifest at the start of what was supposed to be a rejuvenation cruise.

Jay had to undergo several operations, including one where he died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated. Jay told me he learned about managing work stress, the fragility and preciousness of good health and the importance of family. We also discussed medical technology and how his views about patient privacy evolved. Here are excerpts of our discussion, edited for clarity and length:

LW: Your book is pretty gripping. It starts with you going on a cruise, but then ending up on this harrowing personal journey.

Morrow: That’s right. I was a projects manager working hard at a high-stress job and not necessarily paying any attention to the stress toll that it was taking on me over a number of years. Professionally, my plates were full. I was working 60 to 70 hours a week and that was probably too much.

Finally, my wife, Malia, said, ‘That’s enough!’ and she arranged for us to take a short cruise down the California coast to Mexico and back. By the time we got to the cruise terminal, my leg was hurting a little bit, it was just a little sore and I was limping a bit. Things quickly got a whole lot worse.

LW: It took quite some time to finally discover what was wrong.

Morrow: Initially, I went through a battery of different tests and even a series of operations, and they still weren’t sure. Finally, an orthopedic surgeon figured out that it was a cyst on my colon that would leak when I was under stress. This caused poisons to leak into my hip and infect the bone to the point where I contracted osteomyelitis, an excruciating bone infection.

All through this, I had to have three major operations, including removal of my femur. During one of my surgeries, I died on the operating table. I quit breathing. My heart stopped. There was no pulse or blood pressure and they had to use the paddles to bring me back to life and I was in a coma after that.

LW: How did technology come into play?

Morrow: Probably about every week I’d have to undergo an MRI. You’re inserted into a huge machine, and you’re not allowed to move. Then they spend what seems like hours checking various items. I couldn’t have survived without modern medical technology.

It helped the doctors, but it helped me even more so. The MRIs, the CAT scans and ultrasounds that I endured provided information that helped me understand what was going on. Knowing how things were progressing was very important to me.

LW: You told me your views on patient privacy shifted through the course of all this.

Morrow: It used to be you could just walk into the hospital and see a doctor with minimal fuss. Now, often times, you have to check in through layered technologies that require several levels of proving you are who you say you are. This is because of HIPAA privacy functions but also because of the waves of ransomware attacks against health care facilities.

LW: Were you at any point concerned about your privacy being invaded?

Morrow: What I came to realize is that survival trumps privacy. By default, you give up all your personal privacy to receive medical treatment in a tightly controlled environment. In fact, once you’re in a hospital, you need to be assertive. The hospital staff is overworked and most often will fall back on protocol, and sometimes protocol just does not work; sometimes you need to push back.

LW: What’s the main thing you’d like your book to convey?

Morrow: To survive a hospital, you’re going to need a care advocate other than yourself. I’m assertive by nature. But if I didn’t have my wife, and on occasion my mother or my daughter with me, I would probably not have survived. It took all of us to figure out how the place actually functioned, and how to actually get certain things done.

The nursing staff and orderlies do a good job of taking care of most things, but if you’re not assertive, you’re going to find yourself at the low end of the chain. Someone must make sure you’re not falling through the cracks.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

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