Mar25

SXSW 2014: True Potential of Social Media in Healthcare Is Still Ahead of Us

sxsw logoOver a single-week period, SXSW Interactive hosts hundreds of presentations and panels. What was interesting to note this year, compared to the last few, is that a large percentage of healthcare discussions were now hosted on the stages of the two main convention centers, alongside all major celebrity keynotes.

Among many trends and ideas that were discussed, two concepts mentioned at the “What Happens When Tech and Healthcare Meet” panel were quite memorable. Although these are just mere single examples, each testified to a number of current trends in healthcare.

Concept: DermLink—a social network-based platform that allows patients to digitally share skin conditions with dermatologists and receive real-time responses.

Why this is important: This is especially relevant to those outside major metropolitan areas, where a wait to see the local dermatologist can exceed a few weeks. We’ve all heard success stories of doctors tapping into a broad pool of peers via Twitter and Facebook. But this platform is among the first controlled, social, care-specific environments that could potentially redefine the approach and expectations for doctor-patient interaction.

Bottom line: Regardless of the success of this platform, the mere fact that this platform is gaining momentum is an indicator that the true potential of social media in healthcare is still ahead of us.

Concept: Covered—a platform that helps applicants select the most appropriate health insurance by posing a series of qualifying questions in a standard, conversational language.

Why this is important: Although standard applications have been around for quite some time, we’re starting to see a shift in the way even insurance companies need to structure their communications. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a similar shift in practically every single aspect of marketing communication etiquette due to social media. A simple, well-timed response to a tweet can gain greater consumer loyalty than a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad.

Bottom line: Consumers no longer want to be talked at. They want to be spoken with. This is no longer breaking news…rather, a well-known fact. But at last it is finally beginning to change the insurance companies’ tone of interaction with potential applicants.

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Also posted in Apps, Data, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Physician Communications, Social Media, SXSW Interactive, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed
Mar21

The Future of Wearables at SXSW 2014

SXSW_Logo_2013_BlackBG_CSAs you might have imagined, the conversation around wearables was booming at SXSW this year.  But they weren’t talking about FitBit or Fuelband as you might expect.  They were talking about what comes next, after we’ve quantified our surface vitals.

“I got bored with how many steps I walked every day and quickly got used to the idea that I was never doing enough,” said Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, in a conversation-style session held with Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab.  “The amount we are starting to wear to track our vital signs is crazy, but we are moving beyond vitals very quickly,” Brown went on.

The Affective Computing group at MIT is now taking wearables deeper into ourselves than ever before with conductive skin technologies that can detect stress and, paired with complex algorithms, intuit emotions. In aggregate, Joi explained, this will grant us the ability to curate our lives in ways we couldn’t before.  Historically, our environment and circumstances were akin to a series of accidents and coincidences. The future will be much more intentional.

In the healthcare delivery space, these new technologies will help us treat and understand emotional conditions like anxiety, stress, autism, and others. “Devices like Neumitra will transform the way we think about mental health,” said Scott Stropkay, co-founder of Essential. “Mental health is about brain health, which is analogous to physical health, which can be measured and improved.”

Technologies like Neuma, a bio-sensing watch, help measure stress in real time so we can start to manage it.  Linked to a dashboard and combined with calendars or locations, we can begin to figure out what stresses us out—and what calms us. On a larger scale, we can aggregate that data to help make our communities, societies, and world an altogether less-stressful place.

But there is a moral question to all this measurement and quantification. Sometimes there are evolutionary and societal reasons for the need to deceive ourselves. After a less-than-savory meal at a friend’s house, we are conditioned to say, “dinner was great,” so as not to offend. And we are conditioned to believe it. “What’s interesting,” says Ito, “is that the subconscious always knows, we just don’t always rationalize. In a controlled, unemotional study, we can pick out the liar.”

Emotion- and stress-tracking wearables bring the sub-conscious truth about ourselves to the surface.  And how will these affect things like healthcare?  We are all familiar with the placebo affect, which works both ways. This, in fact, is the basis for the FDA ordering 23andMe, an online genetic testing service that provides ancestry-related genetic reports, to cease providing health-related reports until the FDA works through the implications and figures out how to regulate this new kind of service. “Nine out of 10 cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented. But we spend more money treating than we do preventing,” said Ann Wojcicki, founder of 23andMe. “Everyone makes money when I am sick, but who makes money when I am healthy?”

“Twenty-seven percent of us are wearing some sort of sensor,” explained Dr. Leslie Saxon while speaking on Body Computing. “A new person—from birth until the time they are two—will have more medical record data stored in the cloud than any person who came before them.”

All of this is leading to a new kind of personalized healthcare. The kind of healthcare in which delivery mechanisms happen in real-time and enable informed decision-making.  At an aggregate level, data can aid, inform, and expedite research.

Today’s quantified wearables are a great start, but the future of wearables is contextual, environmental shaping, and behavior changing.

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Also posted in behavior change, Data, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Wearable Health Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed
Mar20

The Best of SXSW 2014

sxsw logoI could give you a top 10 list or a top 5 list of what was best at SXSW. That would be great if I were trying to convince you of why attending SXSW is an amazing learning experience. However, what I’d like to provide is the best single thing I learned, and get into some actionable details.

So, I was ready to get into what seemed to be a great talk. I was on line waiting, about a dozen people away from the door, when I heard, “Sorry, this session is full.” So with that news I went next door and found a talk titled, “Let’s Get Physical—Design + Embodied Cognition,” by Michael Hendrix, Partner and Creative Director at IDEO. By chance, I’d just found what was to me the best talk of SXSW.

Embodied cognition is the theory that the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. To simplify, the mind is experiencing the world through all our senses. The more senses that are stimulated, the more powerful the experience.

The really interesting part of this is that our minds cannot really differentiate a real experience from an imagined one. For example, when we go to the movies and experience an action-packed film, we are experiencing intense visual and aural senses. Our reaction to this fabricated experience is that we may be sitting forward in our seat, our heart rate may increase and the palms of our hands may even sweat. Our minds are telling our bodies to react to the imaginary experience as though it’s real. This is powerful stuff. The more senses we engage in an experience, the more our minds take that experience in and make it memorable.

Brands are already using this principle to design their products to convey a certain aesthetic to potential buyers. One example provided at the SXSW session was that BMW makes the hinges on their car doors heavier to convey quality and safety. People who are looking to buy a car will place a premium on a safe, well-built car.

So how does this apply to our world of marketing? Well, let’s say we are creating an iPad piece for sales reps to detail to doctors. It is common for these to include some basic ways of swiping or tapping to navigate to content. Additionally, it is the sales rep who is usually using the device. However, if we want to make this experience memorable for doctors, we should put the device in their hands and tap into more of their senses. We should think about including interesting visual and audio content. Additionally, we can use the interactive capabilities of the iPad to engage even more of the senses. For example, the iPad will recognize with its built-in gyroscope if it’s tilted or moved in a three-dimensional space, with its motion sensor if it’s shaken, or with its multi-touch screen if it’s touched with multiple fingers.

This may sound like fun and games or interaction for interaction’s sake but there is real scientific research that backs up communicating this way. The more we can tap into human senses when we communicate, the more powerful and memorable the communication will be. And remember, that goes for real and imagined experiences. This is an idea that can breathe new life into the way we think about our clients’ needs.

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Mar13

SXSW 2014: Technology and Society

sxsw logoIn Part 2 of his SXSW blog series, Robert Egert recaps some of the SXSW themes that are transforming the way the world looks at technology and society.

THE GREAT MERGE
The Idea: Society and technology are now one.

Ubiquitous mobile access combined with digitization of every aspect of our lives means that what happens online is no longer a reflection of our society but it is society itself.

The implication here is that we need to look at the way we govern the Internet no differently than the way we look at governing our nation. You can’t have a free society without having a free Internet.

One example of how this can play out is apparent in the attempts by autocratic regimes to limit access to the Internet by creating firewalled, state-sponsored Internets. Iran, North Korea and Cuba are just a few countries that have major censorship programs in place, but it is also worth noting that many large nations— most notably China—have pervasive censorship mechanisms in place.

Why this is important: As society continues to migrate social behavior (commercial, interpersonal, financial, etc.) to the digital space, unrestricted access will be a political, social, and commercial issue with substantial impacts to business, human rights, education, and social stability.

SURVEILLANCE AND PRIVACY
The Idea: Big data brings with it the threat of totalitarianism.

Everything we do online leaves an indelible record. Our searches, browsing history, comments, Facebook likes, text messages, tweets, and shopping carts are all recorded, stored, and subject to analysis by companies and scrutiny by governments. Taken together, this data can paint a detailed picture of almost every aspect of our lives.

In a live streaming interview from his embassy refuge in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke of the inherent dangers this data poses to a free society. He suggests that the extensive collection of personal data by the NSA, for example, provides the government the ability to use personal information to control elected officials and by extension is moving toward the establishment of a total surveillance society.

Why this is important: Systems are currently in place to monitor and record our online behavior in painful detail. These systems can be abused. We may be entering a world without the options of privacy or anonymity. This brings significant threats to democratic values and a free society. For those of us in the healthcare industry, we can expect privacy to continue to be a hot button topic, and initiatives that require collection of personal data will require careful consideration for protection and privacy.

ROBOTICS, DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES, AND UNEMPLOYMENT
The Idea: Technology and robotics reduce the need for workers.

When WhatsApp was purchased for $19 billion, they only had about 50 employees. Like many new social and tech businesses, WhatsApp relies on the aggregated social activities of its many users to produce value. But unlike traditional employees, users of apps and social networks are not compensated for their efforts.

Similarly, while manufacturing is on the rise in the US, many of the manufacturing operations that used to be performed by humans are now performed faster and more accurately through robotics.

Another example is self-driving cars. Though still predicted about ten years from widespread commercialization, self-driving cars promise the benefits of safety, speed, and fuel economy, but will also put every taxi, truck, and bus driver out of work forever.

Viewed at a macroeconomic scale, technology produces value and wealth but not necessarily jobs.

Why this is important: Without robust employment, the consumer economy will suffer. We may need to seriously think about implementing models of compensation for user-generated content.

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Mar11

SXSW 2014: Technology and Health

SXSW_Logo_2013_BlackBG_CS

In Part 1 of his SXSW blog series, Robert Egert recaps some of the SXSW themes that are transforming the way the world looks at healthcare.

Massive—that’s the first thing you need to understand about the SXSW experience. At any given time, there are 30 to 50 events to choose from taking place in multiple locations throughout downtown Austin. This means that, unlike conventional conferences, each individual attendee cuts his or her own path through the events by selecting and reselecting from the nearly unmanageable array of keynotes, panel discussions, presentations, and workshops.

Events that feature celebrity speakers or that focus on hot topics can fill up quickly. Dashing from event to event, waiting in long lines, and striking up random conversations en route is part of the experience. Many events include audience QA, so if it suits your fancy you can become part of the public conversation, even if you aren’t an official presenter.

Here’s a highly personal recap of the themes, issues, and events that impressed, stimulated, and/or frightened me:

BIOMETRICS

The Idea: The pervasive collection of quantified biometric data will transform healthcare.

Wearable, implanted, and otherwise applied technologies will collect vast amounts of data on each of us throughout the day and night regardless of where we are or what we are doing. The collected data won’t only be sent to our phones—it will also be shared with physicians and aggregated into an ever-expanding library of health data.

This library can be used to evaluate the impacts of lifestyle choices on health and longevity (how much of what kinds of exercise must you do to reduce hypertension?). They can also measure the impact of pharmacologic therapies (which drug was more effective?), they can help identify disease patterns (what patterns around comorbidity should be looked at?), and they can provide real-time reports on just about anything you want to know about human behavior and health.

Why this is important:

If we combine biometrics with the predictive capabilities of DNA analysis, we’ll be able to obtain a detailed image of our individual health within the larger social context.

CROWD-SOURCED DRUG DISCOVERY

The Idea: Crowd-sourcing health studies and clinical trials.

Current approaches to drug testing and conducting health studies are expensive, slow, and cumbersome. What if we used crowd-sourcing to answer quantifiable health questions?

Jessica Richman, who is the founder of uBiome, a start-up that uses a crowd-sourced approach to collecting scientific health data, proposes that we dramatically change our approach to scientific inquiry. She suggests that with the right protocols and infrastructure in place, crowd-sourcing will be used to speed the evaluation of new products, measure the effectiveness and safety of products already in-market, and obtain quantifiable data on the health impacts of lifestyle choices.

This approach promises to allow us to quickly and efficiently collect larger data sets than ever before. But with this comes the responsibility to maintain processes and checks to maintain scientific integrity.

Why this is important:

It can dramatically reduce the cost of conducting health and drug studies, and it can generate libraries of data for ad hoc inquiry and analysis.

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Also posted in clinical trials, Data, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Pharmaceutical, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed