Viewing entries tagged

study how teens use the web to solve #HCSM challenges

On Sunday I got plugged back into one of my favorite things - the #HCSM tweet chat. Somewhere between graduate school, career demands and whatever else life throws at us, I hadn’t spent much time with the HCSM crowd. It was great to get plugged back in to the latest in healthcare and social media thinking.

This week’s chat was full of fresh ideas, new faces and progressive thinking.

But elsewhere - blogs, articles, random tweets - I’m still seeing a lot of concerns around two specific areas: adoption and privacy.

Maybe we should take a hint from how teens think about social networking.

On this week’s episode of This Week in Tech, the panel discusses Vine, Instagram and online messaging in general. They talk about critical mass and the network effect - terms us techie types use to adoption of social media.

Host Leo Laporte points out that teens have no allegiance to one particular platform. Facebook’s done for kids," he says.

It turns out, what teens value is privacy and features, not a particular platform. They move quickly as the landscape changes, with little or no loyalty for a technology brand. What they chase are easier access to friends on a platform their parents haven’t discovered yet.

They flock to apps like Snap Chat for two reasons:

1) It lets them send pictures quickly and easily

2) The app promises the pictures will disappear in a matter of seconds. IE no record exists.

Am I suggesting Snap is HIPAA compliant? Not at all. But maybe studying teen behavior around social media, networking and mobile apps could provide some valuable insight into adoption and privacy challenges with HCSM.


  1. Try new things quickly and follow the trends. You may not send a Vine video to your doctor, but testing new apps and networks may lead to fresh thinking.  You'll at least be ready if there's a ground swell. 
  2. Be agile in your thinking. Being locked in to Facebook and Twitter narrows our thinking. A Facebook page probably won't cure cancer.
  3. Picture a different enemy. Pretend HIPAA isn't the problem, instead its a parent looking over your shoulder. Pretend we aren't worried about law suits, but instead making sure so-and-so's girlfriend shouldn't know so-and-so took whatshisface to a movie last weekend. Would that change how you think about privacy? What solutions shake out that can be applied to healthcare?

Here’s a link to the specific spot in the TWiT conversation. It starts around 0:58:00.

You can watch the full episode here:

Unintended uses: a mobile app to reduce germy hotel surfaces?

a20791f138332ea144be_m I’ve been staying in a lot of hotels lately. There’s a new trend of apps for in-room entertainment systems, like LodgeNet. Being the cynic I am, I question the value of these apps. I hate the idea of unlocking my phone, launching and app and waiting for it connect just to change channels. And, what’s in it for the vendor? Probably tracks my viewing habits. (Here’s a hint, lot’s of CNN).

Then, while emptying my bottle of hand sanitizer onto every surface in the room, the value occurred to me:

Top hot spots for aerobic bacteria in hotels turned out to be the bathroom sinks and floors, the main light switches and the TV remotes. The remotes, for instance, racked up a mean of 67.6 colony-forming units of bacteria, or CFU, per cubic centimeter squared.

via MSNBC: Germiest hot spots in hotels? TV remote, light switch, study finds

I might rethink my reluctance to using my phone to change channels.

It also makes me wonder, is there a similar application in healthcare? We’re all gun-ho about mobile access to EMR data and appointment scheduling. Are there other uses of mobile tech which might reduce the spread of germs?

Healthcare's digital divide: consumers vs providers

Last week, I wrote about embracing niche use cases, or what is known as the long tail. I referenced a William Gibson quote: The future is here…it’s just not evenly distributed.  If we are defining the future as processess, ideas, or technologies which sound far fetched to most, but in actuality exist in niche areas, then there is another way to consider their distribution. These processess, ideas or technologies can be widely accepted by some groups but still dismissed as "the future" by others. Consider mobile health technology.

According to the Pew American Life Project, nearly half of US adults have smart phones. Float Mobile Learning suggests there are 186 phones for every hospital bed in the US. They also suggest health apps is the 3rd fastest growing area on Apple's App Store. In 2011, South by South West, the popular interactive and music festival in Austin added a healthcare track. This year, the Health Track drew thousands, including big brand names like Qualcom, Cisco, and more.

But wait, there's more.

I created my own infographic... actually, it's part of a slide deck I use internally from which I've stripped the branding and strategy parts. Still, it shows how online and mobile health have tipped, and for consumers, are no longer niche areas.

See the trend here? If 80% of US Adults (including 56% of seniors) are going online for health information, can we really say the distribution is uneven?

The Digital Divide

There is a term, the digital divide which speaks to the rift between those with internet access and/or tech skills, and those without. Examples include the elderly and underserved communities, though there are certainly exceptions in those demographics.

There is another digital divide. When we consider the relatively wide adoption of online and mobile health ideas, processess and technologies, there is still a group for whom this is the's out of reach, or not part of the plan: provider organizations.

Here, the future is evenly distributed among the general population, but very sporadically adopted by providers.

I'm not pointing fingers. This isn't easy stuff. 80% of doctors may have smart phones, according to Float, but how many are also advanced programers and IT gurus? And should we expect them to be? Nor should we expect them to expend their precious margins - believe me, they aren't as high as pop culture would suggest - on developing a state-of-the-art application.

Nevertheless, I suggest there are ways for providers and health systems to start embracing the future:

  • Use what is already available - if you have an EMR with a patient portal, then encourage patients to upload data from health apps. Likely, it will start as CSV attachments which will not immediately be discrete data. Nevertheless, it is engaging for patients, helpful to providers and forward thinking.
  • Share your expertise online - 80% of US adults want health information online, be part of filling the vacuum. When I give talks to clinical folks this is the point I stress the most. There is a powerful difference between hearing your local doctor's reaction to a new study and reading a national, disembodied by line on a national news site. Be the local expert!
  • Partner - if the idea of building your own app, accepting patient data, or starting a youtube channel is daunting, find someone who can help. This is part of a consumer's decision making process, how savvy, available and with it is my doc or health system? Would you fly an airline that didn't let you book online or bank with a bank that didn't have online banking?
  • Embrace cost reduction - If you are a primary care provider, do you really want to ask people to wait in your waiting room for 40 minutes to see you for 10 to get a refill on allergy meds? Building a process for reimbursable eVisits isn't nearly as hard as it sounds. Patients want them. We can FaceTime or Skype around the world, but not our doctors? How's that for uneven distribution?
  • Self-scheduling - finally, in the no-brainer category, nearly all airline tickets are booked online. OpenTable dominates dinner reservations via the web and mobile app. Why does it take a 10 minute call to get a doctor's appointment at a horrible time on a day that doesn't work for me?
One thing is clear, if we consider the uneven distribution of mHealth in terms of consumer vs provider, the idea is already mainstream for a huge segment of the market. With prospects like that, it doesn't take much to find gold. Embracing online tools and mHealth is going to be a major differentiator for providers and health systems who get on the band wagon early.

Mobile Medicine & Mobile Health Care: Float Mobile Learning.