It seems like just yesterday that I was starting a new chapter by taking a position as a Product Manager at the country’s second-largest hospital system, and putting my consultancy on ice. That plot line recently came to an end when the system decided to eliminate my freshly-created position in a blind effort to cut short-term costs. I fear their decision will have long-term negative consequences on the organization’s ability to harness technology for the benefit of improved outcomes and reduced service costs. The challenge of getting people engaged with their own health clearly reveals how important the digital and especially mobile channel is. I presented this message at the WebVisions Portland conference this past May. Here are my slides:
And somewhere there’s a video, too. The world is changing quickly, and the healthcare system as a whole needs innovation more than ever. It turns out that I was prescient in seeing my path as that of an entrepreneur: it has just been a tad sooner than I expected.
Onwards and upwards! I have brilliant news to share, and fresh story line to introduce. I’ve just created DHealth Corporation, a new business that will help deliver wellness services to the world and support a grounded, holistic approach to healthcare. We will provide a provider directory of all sorts of wellness practitioners, from acupuncturists to massage therapists to reiki to who knows what, those remarkable folks who deliver the sort of good experiences and wellness insights that we all need in a world that challenges our health at every turn. DHealth will also help these wellness specialists better connect with their clients through our friendly digital platform. Our forthcoming suite of designed tools will help transform the healthcare landscape in terms of where our precious monies are spent in the healthy pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Let’s devise our own health…design our own healthy world!
I’m tremendously excited and anticipating the rush of start-up life with its attendant complexities. However, the key to it all is a mind-body balance and a harmonious center. So we’ll proceed at the right pace for the business, for ourselves, and for you. Let me know what you think of the new venture! I’m @ebacon on Twitter, and I also aim to get a Devise newsletter out soon announcing my professional progression. Use the form on this site to sign up and let me know it’s about DHealth. New website coming soonish…. There’s lots to do!
This is my trip report from “Healthcare Experience Design” conference held in Boston, MA on March 26, 2012 at the Westin hotel conference center.
The second annual Healthcare Experience Design (HxD) conference was primarily the endeavor of Mad*Pow, a user experience design consulting agency based in Providence RI boasting a strong healthcare client portfolio and strong industry leadership. Their Director of Design, Megan Grocki, was also Program Chair for Interaction12, the annual conference of the Interaction Design Association that I was thrilled recently to attend in Dublin, Ireland. Especially following the great buzz around the inaugural HxD conference in 2011, I knew I simply had to attend HxD after experiencing the inspiring variety of health-related talks she programmed for the Interaction conference. The HxD conference was held at the Westin Waterfront hotel, in a pretty generic conference setting; the Boston weather cooperated for us being stuck inside by presenting heavy rain and wind.
This topic-focused conference, incidentally known on the Twitterz by its hash tag #hxdconf, was mainly aimed at healthcare influencers occupying roles such as product managers and design consultants. Many talks were delivered by user experience design professionals imparting their techniques via real-world case studies to demonstrate the efficacy of their approaches. Data loomed large in many talks, as well, speaking to the often quantitatively-oriented nature of many healthcare professionals. The single-day conference format involved 5 keynote speakers when all attendees convened to listen en masse, and then three separate tracks where folks could choose their preferred topic. The following comprise my notes and observations from the sessions I attended.
Robyn O’Brien: Allergykids and the Unhealthy Truth (Keynote)
I was surprised but pleased that Ms O’Brien opened the conference. Hailed as “the Erin Brockovich of genetically modified foods”, I had watched the video of her TEDxAustin talk some months prior. A food industry executive and super-achieving MBA, Robyn then decided to have children and in typical Type-A fashion had given birth to four children in 5 years. One morning at breakfast, her youngest had a severe allergic reaction (to either the waffle, the milk or the eggs) that led the family to the ED. O’Brien learned to her shock that “allergy kids” were a common sight for the modern physician, and wondering why this phenomenon was so today led her to investigate facts and trends. She told us that as an analyst, she knows well that correlation is not causation but nevertheless she turned up a host of disturbing information and trends. Starting with the introduction of GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops and rGBH (synthetic growth hormone) around the mid-70s, we can see a precipitous rise in the incidence of food allergies–as well as heart-rending conditions such as autism, ADHD and cancer. Cancer is today the leading cause of death for kids younger than 15, an astonishing statistic that as a parent I would love to deny. Peanut allergies were twice as prevalent in 2002 as they were in 1997. Primarily, genetic modification of crops has involved introducing pesticide/insecticide resistance into the genome of the plant itself, which has led to a massive increase in the quantity of such toxins being applied to these crops. Where the rest of the developed nations have chosen to restrict the use of GM crops because they have not yet been proven safe, the US has taken the opposite approach of allowing them because they have not (yet) been proven dangerous. Although this approach may echo our admirable, case law based legal system that presumes people are innocent until proven guilty, this strategy is a questionable one when it comes to health and human welfare. The American reality is that capitalistic profit drivers motivating such business decisions on the part of companies such as Monsanto do not have to incorporate the “external” costs of possible side-effects as unhealthy populations that could be the by-product of heavily chemically-treated foods. Time will have to tell, but unfortunately the evidence is mounting against the safety of the now-conventional food supply in America.
Tod Moore, “Weathering the Perfect Storm: Design and Management Strategies for Hospital Technology Systems” (Talk)
Tod is a Principal at “IT Architecture Practice Leader” Sparling. I certainly appreciated his points that a technology system needs to be intuitive, accessible, and adaptive. The adaptive element is particularly important in the current landscape of hospital-based information technology, which is a challenging patchwork of different and largely disparate systems. He also made the point that one has to manage obsolescence, which is an often forgotten stage in the product lifecycle. Tod said that today’s hospital CEO & CFO are making decisions based on an interest in reducing cost and improving outcomes – and the bottom line is still ROI (Return on Investment). He cited the lean design movement, and cited the importance of having a design vision to ignite passion and drive efforts forward. An interesting question during Q&A provoked Tod to examine the drivers for such a focus on cost reduction today, which he assessed as due to the economic lull; new meaningful use requirements; the nature of payments in the U.S. healthcare system; and uncertainty about the future. He pointed out that the only two things a hospital can really impact is payments and operational costs; the ACO movement away from fee-for-services is tackling the payment structure question while technology is what can most affect operational costs.
Read on for much more…
Elizabeth delivered this presentation at Device Design Day (D3) 2011, as part of her mission to lure interaction designers into the medical and healthcare field to help do more good in the world.
The talk was also recorded, albeit with some echo, and video is available at Kicker Studio’s site.
Applying the methods and processes of Interaction Design to the creation of medical systems provides great benefits for all the parties involved, from patient and physician to developer and product manager. This whitepaper authored by Elizabeth Bacon illuminates the relevant considerations of this field and provides a blueprint for effective, user-centered medical product development.