Transparency during the consumerization of healthcare

I’m at the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit, where, over the next few days, we’ll be considering the transformation of healthcare through empathy and innovation. We’re just a few hours in and have already heard from some great speakers, been brought to tears more than once by moving video storytelling, and discussed barriers to innovation from digital disparities, to cost of entry, to regulation and privacy issues, to patient expectations and clinical realities.

Dr. William Morris, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage; Dr. Imad Najm, Cleveland Clinic; Adrei Pop, Human API

Dr. William Morris, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage; Dr. Imad Najm, Cleveland Clinic; Adrei Pop, Human API

The overarching theme thus far – from Mobile App creators, to physicians, and a Google executive – is the need for transparency.

When mHealth is adopted in this country, it will be because consumers demand it. But, to get consumers engaged using telehealth and health-related apps, we (developers, communicators, physicians, etc.) have to set accurate expectations from the start. We have to educate users about what to expect from the app, and be completely transparent about its limitations, and – most importantly – be clear that technology should augment the consumer experience of healthcare, not replace physicians.

The onus is on mHealth brands – and their communication professionals – to help guide patient expectations. If mHealth is to be a consumer product, communicators need to help users to understand what apps can and can’t do to improve or facilitate health care and health information seeking. According to William Morris, the Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic and award-winning innovator, customers need us to tell them that these “technologies aren’t meant to replace physicians, but to augment [medical care].”

Consumers will be disappointed unless they have realistic expectations. Simply adding a page on your website with consumer instructions will go a long way toward ensuring that your paying customers get the experience they think they’re paying for. More happy customers means more positive reviews, and ultimately, more amplification of your value proposition. That’s what we’re all after – right?

Where do you think the consumerization of health care will lead? Who do you want tomorrow’s patient to be and how can you help today’s patient to become that informed consumer?


Sebastian Thrun: Failure Is Beautiful

Sebastian ThrunWhen Sebastian Thrun approached the podium at Cleveland Clinic’s Ideas for Tomorrow Wednesday, I was both intrigued and put-off by his saunter and his eye-wear. It’s not his fault – I generally approach fame with a certain sense of skepticism. But when one of his opening lines was: “I hope to show you how often I fail,” I was hooked.

It turns out Thrun and I have a common passion for entrepreneurism, for experimenting with new processes in order to change our industries significantly. But, thinking and creating without boundaries involves a great deal of risk taking.

Thrun gave us a chronology of his successes by highlighting his failures because he claims “there is no learning without failure.” Health-tech entrepreneurs often risk everything – investing countless time and money developing ideas that may never work. Or they’ll get their gadget to work on Wednesday – only to find that someone else brought it to market late Tuesday night. These challenges are part of the process of innovation, which Thurn describes as a process of testing and failing.

Process of Innovation according to Sebastian Thrun

Each failure brings us a little closer to our goal – even reshapes the end goal, transforming it into something we wouldn’t have dreamed possible at the outset. If you told me 20 years ago that by 2012, approximately 76% of people would consult the Internet, Dr. Google, before calling their physician I never would’ve believed you.  But then computers became smaller and smaller, information more and more easily accessible, and it’s changed not only the way we ask questions but the very questions themselves.

Someday, someone is going to make health as addictive as video games – and make it lasting – and I want to be there to see it happen. Industries are changed by people who are fearless. Failure teaches us an important lesson: hard work is no substitute for vision. You have to have vision when the experiment you’ve been working on, the app you’ve been developing for years, or the pitch you’ve been researching for months, goes wrong. Without vision, we’d all throw in the towel and learn to love a 9-5 job. “In all these failures,” says Thrun, “there is some beautiful insight that drives us forward.”

Let’s cling to the vision.

The Ingredients of Innovation by Sebastian Thrun

Photo of slide from Sebastian Thrun’s Cleveland Clinic Ideas for Tomorrow presentation

What makes your heart race?

“In order to find happiness, we must be a part of something greater than ourselves – something we truly believe in.” ~Paul Roestzer, author of The Marketing Agency Blueprint

What makes your heart race? For me, it’s learning new things, thinking and implementing new ways of connecting people and ideas that can – eventually – improve our quality of life. My integrated communications firm, i2i Communications, Ltd., doesn’t just offer solutions for small businesses to make a few bucks. We work together with our clients to decide how we can solve their communications issues within their budgets. Our passion is our purpose.

An App Can’t Replace Your Physician

There are an estimated 40,000 health-related apps out there on the market. Why so many? Because one app doesn’t fit all. Because people download the app, use it religiously for a day, a week, a month, or however long it takes to get over the hurdle they faced, and then stop using it. I’ve got several sitting on my iPhone right now. Sure, I’d love to be fitter, to eat better, to know how many steps I’ve taken in a day. But the truth is, I’m too busy most of the time to call my loved ones, let alone sit and plug my daily food intake into an app.

Some apps are only meant to be used a few times. First Derm, for example, allows parents to take photos of their child’s rash and send them in for review by board-certified dermatologists. With a 24-hour turnaround time, parents can find out if they need to take their kid to the pediatrician, or which over-the-counter cream to use. This seems like a good sell, especially since every health crisis my children have had occurred outside of office hours.

Pediatrician examines baby

The technology is awesome. But, depending on the child’s age, the appearance of a rash is often secondary to the rest of her history and symptomatology. Are the dermatologists on the other end of this app pediatric specialists? Would you trust your child’s health to a random stranger on the other side of an app? Someday, in the not too distant future, these innovations should be used by our doctors themselves.

This begs the question though: are we moving away from having one general physician and moving toward taking medical advice from whoever-can-see-us right now? Is this good for our health? Would you use First Derm? Would you be more likely to use it if it also sent the image to your physician’s office and you’d pay that $40 fee to whomever reached it first?

How is social media changing healthcare? Let me count the ways (and questions)…

The power of social media has been harnessed by businesses, marketers, public relations reps, and the media. In some cases (I’m thinking specifically of traditional print and television news reporting) this has meant significant changes to the way business is done – some good, some bad, all angst-invoking.

At the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium, we’re talking about how the business of healthcare is changing. Social media, big data, telemedicine, and the Affordable Care Act are all top of mind in these meetings with health professionals, innovators, and inventors.

When Facebook rolled out integrated blood donor registration, over 10,000 Facebook users quickly registered to donate.

Innovators are working to design edutainment, a combination of gaming and teaching or physical therapy that incents patient participation, making their treatment another addictive technology. Why not harness the power of CandyCrush for good? Giving virtual badges for good behavior doesn’t seem to be enough to engage patients over the long term. Can the act of data capture itself be made fun enough to encourage engagement?

Patients are collecting scads of their own data on their devices everyday. They wear FitBits; they track calories on cellphone apps. But, how can we motivate patients to share this data? What happens when they get busy, stressed, or just tired of collecting data? There are very exciting ways to wear devices that automatically gather data, and complementary devices that automatically transmit that data to your healthcare team. But, if this were all as easy as wearing a t-shirt, would you?

People watch YouTube videos about everything from healthy cooking lessons to shaping their behinds. But with all this information available for free on the Internet – whether it’s good information or not is quite debatable – how do we pay for its production? If we make patients pay, what incentive do they have to actually do it? Should insurance companies pay?

Bottom line: There is no “easy button” solution patient engagement. Patients at different stages of their lives (pre-op, post-op, maintenance, etc.) require different engagement strategies. And, strategic development is not enough. There are barriers to adoption for both caregivers and patients, and until we can address these, changing the structures limiting behavior change, the incredibly awesome innovations we’re seeing are nothing more than inventions.

Technophobes, get ready for the future of healthcare

Meet RoNA (Robotic Nursing Assistant). She’s only one of the hundreds of new, connected technology developments aimed to change patient and provider experiences in healthcare. Designed to lift patients, RoNA reduces injury to nurses and frees them up for other aspects of care. RoNA is only one of the fabulous new technologies I’m learning about over the next few days at the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium.

We’re talking about behavior change – ways to engage patients in their own care – and physician behavior change management – how to get health providers to deliver care differently. Proactively.

We’re talking about crowd-sourcing measurements, so that scientists can predict when you need to get extra rest to avoid a virus, to tell you to stop and call 911 because you’re about to have a heart attack, to forecast the next super-virus and help providers to prepare for crises and emergencies.

New medicine is inherently social. It’s about using our connected devices to monitor our health, and integrating that data into care modules automatically.

As a health communication professional, the education and behavior change possibilities are incredibly exciting as healthcare moves more to improving outcomes, reducing readmissions, and finding ways to measure and integrate quality-of-life data in our care.