SXSW 2013: Bad Behavior – the Saga of SXSW

sxsw logoAs you act, so you become

Health and digital health are emerging themes at this year’s SXSW.  The chatter is robust, the personalities many, and the health and fitness devices ubiquitous.  The behavior is also legendary.  One notable tweet was: “SXSW is a fountain of knowledge where all go to drink!”  And while this is partly true, it’s the behavior that really got my attention this year—but not what you think.

My observations were around health behavior as it relates to the digital health movement that is taking hold at SXSW.  The “device” was clearly embraced by the attendees.  From higi to dosIQ, the technological mechanics and theories seem to be in place to transform your smartphone to a wellness device that’s going to save your life.  At least, that’s the desired impact.  But it all seems to hinge on this huge leap of faith—will people really do it?

I’m not sure.

Communication must empower innovation

The success of digital health is a function of both technology and a story well told.  We all know about the Higgs particle.  It’s the biggest discovery in physics in the last 100 years.  Some even call it the “God Particle.”  But I challenge anyone to provide a brief description of any aspect of this innovative discovery.  Simply put, there’s a disconnect between the discovery and the relevance.  Similarly, I’m afraid that the mishmash of health devices has become more of a novelty than a true innovation.  And while CERN, the lab that discovered the Higgs particle, continues to receive praise, so do the likes of device manufacturers such as Scanadu, Misfit Wearables, and Fitbit.

Understanding the nature of the health dialogue and how it impacts outcomes is an essential part of the digital health journey.  The complicated discussion of disease is already largely broken in the physician’s office.  And adding to this complexity is the “sell” of digital health.  And conversely, the hectic and often confused lifestyle of a patient (I’m not talking about the fitness freak, where adoption is much simpler) doesn’t bode well for engagement and learning.

So, maybe we need to add a few more presentations at next year’s SXSW around driving the correct behavior when it comes to digital health.  The technology side of the equation seems to be coming together, but the human side is still a bit unclear.  “Build it and they will come” doesn’t always apply to health.  And digital health is no exception, regardless of how cool or sexy.

Check out OCHWW’s other SXSW 2013 blog posts:

SXSW 2013: Small Data in a World of Big Data

SXSW 2013: How Zombies Are Helping Us Get Fit

SXSW 2013: BIG Data and Personal Technology at SXSW

SXSW 2013: The Mobile Healthcare Revolution

SWSW 2013: Empty Information Calories


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