Imagining VR Use Cases for Health

On Feb 27, a bunch of Kaiser Permanente IT volunteers discussed IT careers in healthcare to about 300 middle and high school girls at an Expanding Your Horizons career conference for young women.  I had a few VR headsets and talked to the girls about how KP was imagining ways to leverage VR technology in health – a very real topic that we are currently exploring.
VRThere lots of VR use cases in development across healthcare such as human simulation software like HumanSim that lets nurses and docs interact in a virtual training scenario. Virtual robotic surgery is also gaining popularity as is surgery prep. There was a recent case where a doc’s 3D printer broke and he switched to Google Cardboard and an MRI scan to plan a complex surgery; much cheaper and faster!
Most of the girls at the event were totally blown away by the immersive 360 VR experience, and then there were a few who had been at Stanford the week before and thought it was the most boring old hat tech they had ever seen…

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Park Prescriptions for Better Health!

Park Perscriptions

I am so excited about this concept: Park Prescriptions as a best practice in preventive health. There are several groups pushing to create a national agenda for implementing park prescriptions more widely by further understanding and defining “park prescriptions,” identifying successful models from across the country, and developing standardized measurement and data collection methods that define effectiveness of these programs.

The National Recreation and Park Association is is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute at the Golden Gate in California to further this work.

HERE is a sampling of success stories where parks were prescribed for better health.


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“Body Metrics” human data exhibit launches

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose launched its latest permanent exhibit called Body Metrics. This was one of my pet projects and it took quite some effort to get Kaiser Permanente to fund the exhibit development.

You can see Lath Carlson, VP of Exhibits at the Tech and me demonstrating one of the stations during a media preview on Oct 29, 2014. Tim Ritchie, The Tech’s president mentioned that “The technology involved here is incredibly complex — I think it’s safe to say it’s the most technically ambitious exhibit ever attempted at a science museum.”

This exhibit is all about teaching visitors that their bodies generate data. Visitors begin their experience by checking out a Sensor Kit, a customized three-part system that measures, records, and displays six metrics in real time: activity level, tension, mental focus, talkativeness, attitude, and the number of people nearby. 


There are 5 stations to explore and collect data which can then be visualized by placing the Sensor Kit on the “Data Pool” table – a custom 12ft multi-touch table top (right).

The table displays metrics from the entire visit, including how visitors reacted to everything they saw and felt. It delivers “context awareness” about what might have happened to lead to each emotion, as the data is overlaid on a cascade of photographs recorded by the Sensor Kit.

It’s pretty amazing and you should go check it out!

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Your Smartphone Will Be A Medical Device…Very Soon

It probably won’t be too long before we will see the first FDA-approved smartphone. Given the incredible rate of adoption for consumer mobile health sensors and the apps that manage their data streams, it seems inevitable that the market demand for a phone that generates and interprets health data, and then offers advice based on that data, will easily outweigh the cost to develop it. In fact, Nokia (surprisingly) just announced that they sponsoring the Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE for $2.25M to help make this holy grail phone a reality sooner than later.

The global competition is intended to “stimulate the development of sensors and sensing technology to drastically improve and expand the quality and access to healthcare across a wide variety of settings for consumers all around the globe.” There are actually 3 challenges and the first one concludes in May of next year while the final wave receives its award in the fall of 2014. Not sure if this will save Nokia or if $2.25M is enough of an incentive, but I’m betting that someone else will be on the market long before Nokia can commercialize the winning tech.

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A Chat About Social Media in Healthcare

I was at Social Media Week in San Francisco the other day and met Daryl Pereira who works on IBM’s web and social media strategy. We had a lively conversation about the special challenges healthcare marketers face on social platforms. He later interviewed me on the same topic for a podcast posted on their social business school site. So, I thought I’d write down a few more ideas here…

First of all, healthcare is an incredibly broad term that covers everything from pharma, biotech, medical devices (products) to home health, hospital administration and care delivery (services). The product side of healthcare has more challenges because the FDA has strict guidelines about what you can/can’t say and how you have to respond to off-label issues about your product. For example, if a patient tweets a question about using your sleep drug to deal with a heart condition, the proper response would be to include a warning about off-label use, provide a copy of FDA-required labeling, a list all proper indications, safety information, and references for all the provided information. Whew!

The service side deals with another set of challenges around Personal Health Information, which is governed by HIPAA rules. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that says that a patient has control of his or her own protected health information. Basically the name of the game is protecting patient privacy and you can’t talk about any personal information, which includes giving advice. Those conversations can happen but need to be taken out of the public space; no practicing medicine in public forums.

Still, digital conversations about health happen all the time, and the FDA is slowly playing catch up with how to deal with patient safety and privacy. For example, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) now gives state attorneys general the right to pursue violations of patient privacy. Despite these challenges, there really isn’t an excuse for not participating in the conversation!

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Own Your Health

Over the years I’ve come to notice that confidence is really the root of any behavior change, especially for changes that affect your health. I also think that there are residual cultural norms here in the US which discourage self-empowerment regarding health. However, I’m happily observing that many online health resources are both democratizing decision-making and eroding those cultural norms to finally give Americans a greater sense of health ownership.

Online searches for “health ownership” will give you different interpretations of what that phrase means but to me it describes the self-confidence to participate in decisions about your health. This participation is in part the result of a more democratic relationship and greater partnership with our doctors, but it also comes from personal investment.

The more time spent researching conditions online, or tracking them via downloaded apps or embedded sensor technologies, the more invested in the experience we become. It’s the same strategy Mint uses to suck you in; the more data you invest, the more control you feel you have of your financial destiny.

What if a reliable and easy to navigate Personal Health Record (PHR) interface were available to aggregate health data – and they are coming – then those who opt to use it might feel as in control and excited about managing their health as they do now about managing their money.

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Third Year of HealthCamp SFBay!

We are only a few weeks away from the third annual HealthCamp in San Francisco! This year we have 2 exciting opening speakers to discuss the foundation of everyone’s health – food!

Dr. Alan Greene has pioneered the “white out” movement to eliminate processed cereal and other foods for babies.

He argues to replace this junk food with whole grains and organic fruits and veggies. This especially resonates with me as I have a little critter at home who is just starting on solids…organic oats, barley, quinoa, black beans and all kinds of other yummies. Needless to say, I’ll be getting Dr. Green’s autograph after he speaks!

Our other speaker is Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Preston Maring who has been actively promoting organic foods and farmers markets since 2003. Dr. Maring has written a cookbook with plenty of tasty organic recipes to choose from. We are going to try to get him to give a cooking demo and then feature some of his recipes during the lunch.

It’s going to be the tastiest HealthCamp to date! It’s on September 23, 2011 at the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Innovation Center in San Leandro. Tickets are very limited, register here!

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BIL Hits the Big Time

I’m pretty thrilled that BIL has made it mainstream by getting face time in the Wall Street Journal – in fact, I think the article even ran on the front page a few days ago! I guess the notion of counter-culture or, rather, counter-elitism makes good news these days given the rash of political uprisings against dictatorships recently.

It’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to make BIL this year as it is next week in Long Beach (5th-6th) and chances are I’ll be in a delivery room pushing out my own art/science project. I am, however planning on attending the first Quantified Self Conference, May 28-29, 2011 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. I’ve been supporting Gary Wolf and the team to get things going and will probably be working registration on one of the days…who knows, maybe I’ll even present something on the Archive again.

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HealthCamp Brings Important Players to the Conversation

“Our mission is to assist the President in harnessing the power and potential of technology, data and innovation to transform the nation’s economy and improve the lives of everyday Americans.” – Aneesh Chopra, U.S. CTO

As one of the organizers for HealthCamp SFBay I’m pretty proud to say that this year is going to be even better than last year’s event! Not only have we secured Sprint as a major sponsor, finessed the scheduling and will provide more robust reporting, but we have also had both Annesh Chopra, US CTO, and Todd Park, HHS CTO commit to coming and speaking at the event!

Their involvement stems from our partnership with the Health 2.0 organization and agreement to co-host the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge (strongly supported by both Aneesh and Todd). What HealthCamp hopes to provide the DevChallenge is a collaborative venue for people to come up with new ideas for challenges (see current challenges), to form teams to take on existing challenges, and to share ideas on how best to tackle some of the issues involved with solving complex health related problems that involve private health data.

Both Aneesh and Todd are currently dealing with many similar challenges as they strive to come up with technology and policy recommendations that will meet strict requirements on many fronts from personal privacy to political agendas. It will be interesting to see what they have to say, come join us on October 6 at the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Innovation Center! Register here

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Design In/Is Business

Leveraging design and design teams to increase competitive advantage is getting more notice in large organizations thanks in part to events like the Design Management Institute’s (DMI) “Re-Thinking…The Future of Design” conference in San Francisco this past June. Key design leaders across a broad spectrum of industries shared conversations on stage about how they used design thinking tools to create value for, and facilitate change in, their organization.

What struck me most is that design teams increasingly seem to also serve as innovation teams for the business. John Fly, the VP of Strategic Planning at Miliken & Company talked about successful designers being able to toggle between solving both business problems and design problems and often solving business problems with design solutions. The biggest hurdle in this process usually comes from finding a common business/design language. However, understanding the business inside and out increases credibility and leads to better decisions for the business.

I was most focused on what Bob Schwartz, GM of Global Design for GE Healthcare had to say because of my personal interest in improving healthcare through design thinking. His decades in design management had obviously honed his business navigation skills and it was through a combination of analogies, storytelling techniques, and an empathy workshop that he was able to build consensus and unify his design team of 46, spread over 5 countries.

Pushing empathy as a key driver for design and business decisions led to the redesign of several GE products – particularly in the pediatric space where the design team created a MRI scanner and scanning process from the perspective of a child. A story was developed for the children to engage in before they came for the office visit and the scanner room maintained the story’s imagery throughout. This environment reduced anxiety during the procedure and ultimately improved test results. The success from this storytelling approach filtered to the sales force and acted as a powerful motivator to increase sales.

My hope is that more examples like this will bubble to the surface and motivate investment in design teams and the value of design thinking processes across the entire organization. Giving every business team the license to think creatively and more empathetically will foster solutions to support humanity and not just the bottom line.

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