Posts Tagged experience design

A Maker’s Approach to Health

I’m noticing a bit more of a shift toward self-reliance in what is known as the “maker movement” and highlighted by events like the Maker Faire in San Mateo each year. This observation might be more of a symptom of living in the Bay Area, but I’d like to think that the increasing popularity of steampunk is also fueling the fire of a do-it-yourself culture.

I’ve always had a propensity to want to make things, partly because of my creative background and inclination but also because the process and tangible end product are so much more rewarding than just throwing down a couple bucks. I have mountains of crafts projects stashed away but an equal number in everyday use or pulled out for special occasions like this past weekend’s Steampunk Exhibition in Emeryville where I decked out in regalia that I had partially made, modded and refurbed myself.

So, why couldn’t we take a similar approach to our own health? Where we spend time carefully crafting the food we eat, or the containers we carry our lunches in (steampunk lunchbox anyone?) In our increasingly virtual world, creating tangible things is hugely gratifying, and making things that make you happy AND healthy are the most valuable way to spend your most precious commodity – time.

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Snuggling up in the ‘medical home’

The medical home isn’t so much a place as it is a relationship with the state of your health. We tend to be kind of lazy by nature and don’t address health concerns until they become intolerable – then we are off to the doctor to treat an episode. What the concept of the medical home encourages us to do is develop an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician to reduce these costly and stressful episodic events.

Sounds like a great idea but what doctor has the time to hang out with you every week? hellohealthIt really requires a fundamental shift in how health services are provided so that same-day services can easily be accommodated. An organization in NYC called hellohealth is trying to get closer to this model.

Their site allows you to create a health profile, select participating doctors in your area (you can have multiple caregivers including chiropractors, therapists, etc.), and then easily schedule time with them. The really unique feature of the site is that you can choose how you want to meet: phone, IM, email, video chat or physically go into their office.

The costs vary depending on duration and are all out of pocket – no insurance hassles. The nice thing is that all the doctors have profiles on the site to invite you to get to know them better…and possibly start a meaningful relationship with them. Check out Dr. Jay Parkinson, nothing like a hot doc to make that headache go away!

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Health 2.0 Conference – The Wild West of Healthcare Reform

Matthew HoltThis was my first actual Health 2.0 Conference (in Boston, 4.22-23.09), the third of a series started in Health 2.0September 2007. I volunteered to help out which allowed me to interface more easily with the organizers Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya as well as participants of the event.

Matthew has been following technology in health care since the early 1990s and is the founder of TheHealthcareBlog, Subaiya is also a healthcare consultant and entrepreneur. They are both somewhat rowdy visionaries, a trait that seems to be prevalent within the Health 2.0 community and movement at large. You can’t help but feel this is all a bit like the Wild West with many prospectors seeking Obama healthcare gold by leveraging IT and social media tools.

ePatient DaveRegardless of financial promise, the dedication to actual healthcare reform runs more deeply and passionately in this crowd. Many of the most adamant catalysts for change have themselves had an unfortunate experience within the healthcare system. One such person is e-Patient Dave (pictured right having salt applied to a self-inflicted ketchup stain), who “stomped the snot out of a nasty cancer that was on its way to killing me.”

As a software marketing professional, Dave was aware of and able to mobilize a whole community of online support through sites such as PatientsLikeMe to get the advice and encouragement he needed to best manage his treatment. This experience has led him now to focus on patient-empowered healthcare reform; during his talk he stated:

The patient has all the information; they just need the tools to make good health decisions. Patients need to talk to each other to share and learn for better outcomes…but at the end of the day being empowered doesn’t mean you are a doctor – it is a partnership.

I think we are going to see more of this health-partnership structure develop as new health information tools continue to pop up, discussion forums mobilize and individuals begin to feel like they own their healthcare decisions. Empowerment is the key here.


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Exposing Product Managers to the Value of Design Thinking

SVPMA logoIt was interesting to see how Dr. Sara Beckman (who teaches new product development and operations management at the University of California’s Haas School of Business) framed the value of design and design thinking to a room full of product managers and engineers.

At this SVDr. BeckmanPMA meeting in Santa Clara on March 4, she captured their attention by first rolling out quantifiable research on how firms with “design portfolios” outperformed those who did not place strategic importance on design. I always had a sense that there was tremendous power in design but I hadn’t ever really seen research to prove design produced a significant ROI.
Apparently the UK Design Council has some compelling statistics (like a 40% increase in sales?!). While in the US, the Corporate Design Foundation has generated the US Design Index (which I can’t seem to find a reference for) stating similarly impressive gains to firms investing time and money into design.

Even though the numbers seemed a bit skewed, and Dr. Beckman acknowledged this, the PMs and engineers in the audience were paying attention. She continued to explain that it is design that creates customer experiences and that the question should always be “what can you do to help your customers?” I got the sense that this approach was a bit out of the norm for the group. This is understandable because design thinking is a bit of an eye opener if pure functionality and lowering costs are always the project drivers.

What became increasingly apparent during the course of Dr. Beckman’s talk was that this customer-focused design process of building a product story and experience are also the foundation of what most firms these days are striving for: innovation.

And in the spirit of Dr. Beckman’s presentation, I have found a report which comprehesively measures the the impact of innovation on the economy at



Interaction Design – A rose by any other name…

IxDAUntil recently, I’d had essentially no contact with the concept of Interaction Design (IxD) since it became a new discipline only about 5 years ago. From what I’ve seen, it is really about creating a brand experience, but to get the inside scoop, I decided to crash the Interaction09 Redux Conference on Saturday, an event sponsored by the SF chapter of the national Interaction Design Association or IxDA).


So what did I learn? It seems that everyone has a slightly different definition of what IxD is. I tend to lean toward the way Wikipedia defines it: “Interaction Design is the discipline of defining the behavior of products and systems that a user can interact with. It defines the behavior (the “interaction”) of an artifact or system in response to its users.” My perception is that the interaction design experience should take place at every customer touch point – from the tangible product, package and literature to intangible website and promotions.

But it seems that the purists at IxDA say “Interaction Design defines the structure and behavior of interactive products and services. Interaction Designers create compelling relationships between people and the interactive systems they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances; Interaction Designers lay the groundwork for intangible experiences.” This sounds like it only relates to interactive products like websites, games and such.

And how is this all different from experience design? Our friends at Wikipedia say it “is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions, with less emphasis placed on increasing and improving functionality of the design.”

I can’t say I’m any clearer on exactly what IxD is after having shared the same space with about 100 people who have it on their business cards. However, the group did have a sense of solidarity grounded in the belief that what they are doing is a critical and often omitted component in the design process. Even though the exact definition is a bit hazy, I realize that this is a discipline I need to dig into more deeply because IxD uniquely focuses on that critical moment a consumer forms her opinion – whether sweet or not.

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