Healthcare?s explosive growth into digital: Notes from the Connected Health Symposium

A couple of weeks back I attended the Connected Health Symposium at the Boston Park Plaza. The 2 day conference was quite an eye-opener to me. In the two years since I?ve been away from the healthcare space, the world has changed much ? a new, braver world full of proposed healthcare reforms and mobile and wearable disruptive technologies that has put the patient front and center has emerged, promising to bring about rapid transformation in this industry.

The buzzwords and themes this year were e-health, m-health, connected health, patient centered care, patient self-management as well as remote monitoring of biometric data for everything from prevention and wellness to self-management of chronic diseases. The official theme this year was about ?innovations to build value, accountable care and patient engagement.?

Throughout both days there were several demonstrations of potential game-changing products and services. ?In addition, there were multiple keynotes, interviews, debates, an exhibit hall and networking opportunities.

Within the self-management model, the wearables market seemed to dominate the product demos. ?Everything from wrist bands to foot mats and other devices that can monitor pulse, heart rate, activity rate, blood pressure, etc., and send data to servers were on displays. The other prevalent strategy was to use gamification techniques for creating awareness and self-management.

This is not unlike some of the work we have done at Roundarch Isobar for several clients in the last few years. One of our very successful projects has been for the adidas miCoach ?interactive, personal coaching and training? system which connects wearable devices that monitor workouts or game performance to an analysis application that?provides online monitoring. ?The application is?accessible?either from a home computer or a mobile device.

 

Roundarch Isobar has also partnered with Healthways to develop web and mobile products to help people live longer and be happier. These products use expert guidance, social connections and gamification techniques to help users engage in improving their well-being. In the next few weeks, two of the products ? Well-Being Connect? for general well-being and Innergy? for sustained weight loss ? will allow users to connect to Fitbit and Withings devices to more easily track and monitor activity, weight and blood pressure.

 

 

 

Below are a few self-management products from the conference, though not all are wearables or use game mechanics.

 

  • Podimetrics is a non-intrusive foot mat for detecting diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Asthmapolis uses a snap-on sensor that tracks medication delivery that can be wirelessly transmitted to mobile and web accounts, and which provides reminders & notification services. They are working on EHR integration. It is an FDA cleared e-health app and is available in English and Spanish versions.
  • ClickMedix is used for remote monitoring in rural or remote areas using camera phones to take photos and send for diagnosis. They ran a pilot in Botswana diagnosing cervical cancer. Nurses send secure communication via mobiles to doctors. They record sound from a digital stethoscope via Bluetooth.? Doctors can share the case with other medical experts and bring in their own value network. They can track data and see trends over time. It enables providing healthcare to remote areas, and brings down costs associated with travel and getting a diagnosis faster and at a fraction of the cost.
  • Ayogo?uses functional games for those struggling with chronic disease, by using games to educate, motivate and nurture individuals. Example – Self-tracking of diabetic kids. Data can be shared with parents and clinicians.
  • Gerijoy virtual companions – a dog within an andoid app which provides an emotional and family connection to seniors living on their own. Combines human intelligence with a machine avatar by using reps who talk to the user. It is subscription based.

And on and on went the product demos. For those of you not paying attention to this industry, you may be wondering about the business opportunities. Susannah Fox, of the Pew Internet Project shared some new statistics in her keynote on ?The e is for engagement?. She claims that 70% of Americans track their health information either formally or informally, some using digital means. Some of the most popular smartphone app categories in health are for exercise, fitness, diet, food, and monitoring weight.

While Susannah highlighted user/patient centered needs, there are also needs to consider from the payer or healthcare provider perspective. In a nutshell, for them, it is about reducing costs while improving the quality, access, and speed of service. According to Dr. Eliot Fisher, today 50-60% of the money is spent taking care of 5% of patients.

As with any other industry, healthcare has its own share of organizations who are champions of change in this field. Rockhealth is one such incubator of start-ups for the healthcare industry. Their website is a good resource for studies and stats. In partnership with the?Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC)?and the?Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they are inviting designers across the country to rethink and redesign how the medical record is visually presented. Find out more about the competition at: http://blue-button.github.com/challenge/

There is also an organization called (which was not present at the conference) which claims to have the biggest database of health games.

Other organizations that were referenced and often work collaboratively in this space are the Center for Connected Health that organized this event and indeed has several resources on its own website, the Mayo and Cleveland clinics, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Commonwealth Fund, and Don Berwick who ran IHI and was most recently the administrator for Medicare tapped and was personally by the President.

Several of the keynotes spoke about the need to identify and eliminate the challenges posed by the current ecosystem and technologies. Susannah Fox said that the greatest need was to make these devices seamless and non-intrusive. Certainly the Director of the MIT AgeLab Joe Coughlin echoed her as he said ?Every new technology solution generally creates one or two new challenges.? ?He gave a fiery speech about all the challenges in front of us:

 

  • – ?How do we promote consumer engagement & distribution?
  • – ?Should we look elsewhere such as Apple for cues?
  • – ?Service delivery: how many more ?jobs? are we creating for ourselves by putting all these apps in between?
  • – ?How do we reduce some of this friction? Staples makes it ?easy.?
  • – ?Data fusion or confusion? ?What do we do with all the data?
  • – ?We want solutions, not data with the limited amount of time we have daily.
  • – ?Would you trust the Cloud with your mother?
  • – ?All of these innovations demand a nextgen workforce.
  • – ?How do we bring it into the new normal and not the new innovation?

The two day conference was certainly good exposure for me to dive back in to understand the technologies, opportunities, challenges and players. As a user experience professional, this is the perfect opportunity to engage and affect change that truly makes a difference in the lives of people and for the greater good.

Meeta Mathur

Associate User Experience Director

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