Invent Health

As winter sets in here in DC, I’m warming up with memories of September’s Stanford Medicine X conference. I loved putting together a keynote that highlighted how the maker movement intersects with the e-patient movement — and how private sector and government leaders can benefit. This intersection, and the lessons we are learning from it, are the latest examples of how the internet gives us access not only to information but also to each other. That deceptively simple insight is, I believe, the key to unlocking the potential for innovation in health care.

Here’s an excerpt:

Stanford University posted the full video on their Facebook page and you can learn more about the Invent Health initiative I launched at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by reading the following posts:

Health care needs a jolt of innovation. Here’s how we’re approaching it at HHS.

Invent Health: The National Week of Making

The Invent Health Initiative: Hardware Innovations for the Low-Resource Environment

Invent Health: Finding Common Ground

The Invent Health Initiative: Hardware Innovations Hard at Work

Invention and Innovation in Emergency Preparedness

Empowering Inventors to Create Tools for Better Living, Better Clinical Care

Kid Inventors Focus on Health

Documents of controversial times

I’m speaking today at Stanford Medicine X about what I’ve learned exploring the intersection between the Maker movement and health care (tune in at 4:25pm Pacific).

I posted a short version of my remarks on Medium, but I thought I’d post an image I was very happy to find to illustrate one theme: revolutions happen when people are connected not only to information, but also to each other. And that happens when people gain access to the means of production and distribution, as we saw in 1776, when Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, helped spark the American revolt against British rule.

Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine (1776)

Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine (1776)

Pamphlets can be printed cheaply, quickly, and in huge numbers. They can be transported in bulk and distributed to a wide audience. My favorite description of pamphlets is that they are “documents of controversial times.”

Here’s my question: What is the equivalent today? What are the means of production and distribution that are connecting people with information and with each other? Twitter, blogs — what else?

The White House Conference on Aging

Lawn sign in front of the White House announcing the Conference on Aging July 13

The White House Conference on Aging only happens once every ten years — and it’s happening tomorrow.

The program begins at 10 a.m. ET on Monday, July 13, and will be livestreamed: https://www.whitehouse.gov/live

I’ll be on a panel in the late afternoon talking about technology and the future of aging, directly after Tim Brown and Barbara Beskind discuss universal design. (Read this Wall Street Journal article about some of Beskind’s ideas.) Continue reading

Quantified Self Public Health

Quantified Self Public Health is back! 150+ health geeks of many stripes will gather on Thursday, May 14, in San Diego to discuss how access to personal data could benefit individuals and society.

It is an invite-only meeting (sorry!) but filled with voracious documentarians like Joyce Lee (read her Storify from last year) and, well, me (read my round-up post, which also links to others’ blogs). Follow the tweets on the #QSPH hashtag, too.

Observations and conclusions from last year’s QSPH event were captured in an in-depth report (PDF) and in a series of videos. Here is one of my favorites: Ian Eslick’s talk on the role of personal experimentation in the medical and scientific process:

This year it will be my privilege to interview Don Norman, a design pioneer, on stage.

To prepare, I’ve been reading sections of his books, The Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design, and watching talks like this one:

I was struck by three themes of Norman’s approach:

1) Solve the correct problem.

My reaction: Boy, does health care need to grok this point. I can’t wait to ask him how to recognize when you’ve dug deep enough into the roots — and what tools to use to get there.

2) Pleasant, attractive things work better.

Reminds me of Michael Graves’s tart review of his hospital room: “I can’t die here. It’s too ugly.” And then he went on to make hospital rooms more beautiful and functional.

3) There is no substitute for direct observation of and interaction with the people who will be using the product.

Yes! I couldn’t agree more. Participatory research *must* come to health care.

Read the full quote from Chapter 6 of The Design of Everyday Things, and, as a thought experiment, substitute “natives” for “patients”:

Don

This point reminds me of conversations I’ve had with people who design communications for HIV clinical trials. They need to use “one voice with many inflections” — that is, one set of facts, but tailored to the population they are targeting, such as sex workers in Thailand vs. Peru.

Switching gears…

A key element of the QSPH meeting is that it will be populated by toolmakers and tinkerers. People who make and hack their way to insights about health. So I’m also reading Mark Hatch’s book, The Maker Movement Manifesto.Book cover: The Maker Movement Manifesto

One of my recent obsessions is the health innovation that is happening at home — the hacks, tips, and tricks that regular people invent to make their lives better. Some are simple, like using a baker’s spatula to turn a large person in bed or sticking a pen through a tennis ball so someone with low dexterity can write. Some are more complicated, like the Do-It-Yourself-Pancreas-System or the Auvi-Q epinephrine injector (both created by people living with the conditions being addressed).

How might we harness the energy of all the people who are making a way out of no way, every day, in health care (that is, patients and their loved ones)? How might we empower them with data and resources? How might we learn from them, and them from us?

Please let me know if you have a question for Don Norman. I know our time will go very quickly, but I want to squeeze as much as I can into the conversation!

Hack needed: Tiny pills, trembling hands

Top of a pill bottle reads "Close Tightly" Image by Are W on flickr

A friend writes:

I am sweeping the kitchen and just found one of my brother-in-law’s Parkinson’s pills [Ropinirole].

Every time he has to take it, he drops it. It is tiny and, well, he has Parkinson’s. I can’t tell you how many times the kids end up on the floor looking for the pill he just dropped.

Are there any hacks for a Parkinson’s patient to manage those tiny pills?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term “hack,” its original meaning is “an appropriate application of ingenuity.” I’ve written about home health hacks here and here and I’m actively seeking ways to connect health hackers/makers/inventors with the people who need them. I was thrilled when my friend texted me with this question and I’d love to help.

One idea I had: put a dab of honey on your finger and use that to pick up the pill.

Another idea: ask gardeners how they manage the sorting and handling of tiny seeds.

If you’ve got an idea, please share it in the comments below!

(Image courtesy of Are W on flickr.)

3 home health care hacks

I recently spent an afternoon with a dear relative who is being treated for cancer. Her medication regimen is so complicated that my mom, an experienced caregiver, visits her daily to help sort all the different pills into all the various boxes (and make sure they get swallowed). They showed off three health care hacks that they’d come up with:

1) A weekly meeting to go over the pill supply. I snapped this photo, but blurred it and cut out the 2-pager my mom uses as a checklist. Note the use of clean surfaces to sort the pills — cutting boards and saucers. During this meeting they agreed that they need an upstairs pillbox (for pre-breakfast meds) and a downstairs pillbox (for the rest) because otherwise she forgets to take the early-morning pills.

Pillbox blurred

2) Our relative recently had a port placed and she needs to keep it dry for 10 days. A friend brought over a handy roll of plastic wrap she bought at a hardware store and showed them how to wrap the area so she could shower. Continue reading

Hacking home health care

We need to fix the “solved problems” crisis in home health care.

Let me explain.

At the start of Health Foo* in December, everyone introduced themselves in 6 words or less. Row by row, person by person, 100+ people talked in turn. In the back row, nearly the last to speak, Laura Baldwin stood and said, simply, “Dignity at the end of life.” I made a beeline to introduce myself. Continue reading