The Power of Connection

Portraits of past HHS secretaries above Post-its

Portraits of past HHS secretaries overlooking an IDEA Lab design session

Technology enables the mission of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). It widens access to information and tools and pushes power out to all parts of the network, from our colleagues in the federal workforce to our fellow citizens. At HHS, we seek to create a learning system that recognizes the potential of every stakeholder in the network to contribute, from patients and caregivers to clinicians, researchers and policymakers.

The CTO of HHS serves the Secretary and the agency by bringing new approaches to the problems faced by those on the front lines of medicine, public health, and social services.

I see the role as a spotlight and a beacon, highlighting the innovative work being done inside and outside the federal government and inspiring people to reach higher, in service to citizens. Continue reading

What health care can learn from Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel

Google is upgrading health search…again.

In 2010, I was inspired by Animal Farm to write that Google saw some health sites as more equal than others. This time I turned to Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton.

Cover of children's book: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

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What if health care…?

Sunflowers by Stuck in Customs on FlickrFor over a year I’ve been the accidental manager of a community garden. All I did — I swear — is point out an open plot of land and people started pitching in, planting, asking friends to join them. All of a sudden we’d transformed a bare patch into something beautiful.

I thought for sure that interest would wane. I’d be left with a lovely little garden to tend on my own and I’d probably let it go after a while. But new people kept showing up to help. I frankly wasn’t ready but they came in, planted new flowers, and invited their friends to come over. They expanded the original plot and just kept going.

OK, so, before I take the metaphor too far, I should reveal that I’m not talking about a real garden. The community didn’t plant flowers. They planted ideas about what health care could be like if we remade it, without regard for money, politics, or any other reality. Continue reading

What’s your health care dream?


#whatifhc in #TheWalkingGallery


Note: This is two posts in one — scroll down to read Regina Holliday’s point of view.

From Susannah Fox:

For me, Twitter is a free-wheeling space where people dance with ideas. Anyone is welcome to jump into the spotlight and take a twirl. That’s how I see hashtags – spotlights on circles of people, talking about certain ideas. Create a hashtag and you call the tune. Add a hashtag to your tweet and you join the circle.

Over the last few days #whatifhc (which stands for “What if health care…?”) became a flashmob of dream-sharing, a pop-up forum for health care ideas, no matter how idealistic, grand, or granular.

It started when I tweeted a quote from Peter Margolis of the C3N Project:

“What if it was as easy to find out how to…find a medicine that’s right for you as it is to order exactly the book you want?” #c3n

His colleague Michael Seid tweeted back:

“new hashtag? #whatifhc what if everyone had the means & motivation to be part of the solution?”

I tweeted a few examples and the dancers began to whirl:

@produceconsume: #Whatifhc was focused on health, not just on care? Continue reading

Are patients knights, knaves, or pawns?

Sachin Jain and John Rother’s JAMA commentary, “Are Patients Knights, Knaves, or Pawns?” is an article that begs to be shared.  The first time I read it I had to stand up, I was so excited — how can I design a survey to capture these questions?! was my first thought. My second thought was how soon can I post this online and get the debate rolling?

Here’s a quick, wonky summary: Jain & Rother use Julian Le Grand’s metaphor concerning the motivations and behavior of post-war public servants and citizens in Britain as a springboard to consider how health policymakers in the U.S. might anticipate a transition to a patient-centered system or its alternatives. If Le Grand’s thesis is new to you, please read “Power to the pawns: For excellence in public services, should societies rely on altruism or self-interest?” (The Economist, October 30, 2003).

This is a debate that needs wide exposure. So, since the full text of the article is behind a paywall, I’m going to excerpt it lavishly. Here goes (with footnotes translated to links): Continue reading

The Future of Health: Robots, Enchanted Objects, and Networks

I have seen the future of health and it’s networks (with apologies to Lincoln Steffens).

Chronic disease is exploding in the U.S. The number of primary care health professionals is declining. Behavior change is difficult. But what are we going to do about it? Here are three ideas I’ve brought back from my travels: robots, enchanted objects, and networks.

The most radical idea I’ve heard was proposed at one of the most staid events I’ve attended: the Connected Health Symposium. Roll the tape:

Joe Kvedar also blogged the speech: “Emotional Automation: Bonding with Technology to Improve Health.” Check out this idea:

Can we set up systems that are extensions of our providers that will allow patients to feel cared for by their doctor but be interacting with a piece of software or a robot?

Continuing this theme of interaction with inanimate objects, watch David Rose talk about GlowCaps and other enchanted objects at Mayo Transform 2010: Continue reading

What is the ROI on love?–Susannah Fox

Last week’s Mayo Transform symposium was a two-day excursion into the world of science, data, design, and the secret ingredient to health: love.

Patch Adams, MD, kicked things off in grand style. If you’ve never seen him speak, treat yourself to a hit of his energy:

In 1971, he and his compatriots opened a 24×7 hospital in a six-bedroom house to address every aspect of health, free of charge. Their “ideal patient was somebody who wanted to create a deep, personal friendship with us” and who understood the hospital promised care, not cure.

And now for something completely different (but stick with me — there is a theme here): Sharon Gibson, a health industry executive at Cisco Systems, who showed off a frankly luxurious clinic built to employee wish list specifications.  Continue reading

Health IT Policy: E-patients want access–Susannah Fox

What would you say to policymakers who are discussing the implementation of a national health information infrastructure?

Here’s what I’d say: E-patients want access to tools and information.  Many will find what they need, many will not. You can help. Continue reading

Participatory Medicine at PdF09: Can we get a do-over?–Susannah Fox

The poli-tech tribe gathered in New York last week for the Personal Democracy Forum and, as Craig Newmark put it, welcomed “our new nerd overlords.”

Esther Dyson, Jamie Heywood, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and I were asked to take on a breakout panel entitled, “From Participatory Politics to Participatory Medicine: The Coming Revolution in Health Care.” Cool, right?

Jerry Nadler joins Esther Dyson, Jamie Heywood and Susannah Fox to talk about "From Participatory Politics to Participatory Medicine" at Personal Democracy Forum 2009

Esther Dyson, Jamie Heywood, Jerry Nadler, and Susannah Fox

Via email, Esther suggested we skip the usual speeches and just tell the audience the questions we’d like to be asked and have a truly participatory session:

  • Jamie was going to talk about PatientsLikeMe,, and the power of patients to take control of their own data.
  • Esther was going to ask how openness, transparency, measurement, and sharing of data affect health care.
  • I was going to talk about which tech trends might forecast higher (or lower) levels of involvement by all Americans in both participatory medicine and participatory democracy.

Then Rep. Nadler arrived and said he’d been told that this was a panel about health care reform. Well, kind of. Not really. But we had to get started.

It didn’t go well. Continue reading

Patient Voices at CHCF’s Chronic Disease Care Conference–Susannah Fox

This is the second in a series of posts about the California HealthCare Foundation’s Chronic Disease Care conference (the first was Happy Dogs in a Pile of Sticks).

Patient Voices: Managing Chronic Conditions, Living our Lives

Ted Eytan snapped a photo that captured this session: Patient Involvement Makes People Smile

Here is each person’s story: Continue reading