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Help us find the people who took our camera on its own vacation then brought it back

I’ve been skiing since I was 3. If they had made small video cameras in the late 70s and early 80s, I probably would have started making poorly-edited videos then. As it is, we didn’t really get cameras one would want to ski with until about…say…2003?.

The videos got marginally better.

And some tell a story.

I’m rarely in them, because I’m the one holding the camera.

For 13 years, we’ve been taking a guy’s trip. Most of those videos look the same. (Only, we’ve gotten older and slower).

This year, I bought a new camera. Which was billed as the ultimate skiing camera. Stick it to anything…helmet, pole, even your boot. So I did.

It fell off. After some searching, I figured I’d never see it again. Little did I know, my camera was off having its own vacation.

Help me find the this group! In addition to looking like a lot of fun, they took my camera on a fun-packed day, filmed their adventure and —above all —were kind enough to turn it into the lost and found. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

But who where they….?

who were they? from Nick Dawson on Vimeo.

Vail's EpicMix, an innovative model for healthcare data

I'm not a huge fan of what I call blatant marketing. You know it when you see it, particularly with interactive campaigns online. You want me to do what? Like this page, give you my home address, and retweet your link for a chance to win an iPad? No thanks. I avoid frequent shopper cards at the grocery store for the same reason. When Vail Resorts launched Epic Mix last year, I was skeptical. Vail wants to track every move you make, literally, on their mountains. Vail installed RF chip readers in every lift line and started putting RFID chips in their lift tickets. You go through a line, and they know it. They also know your age, gender, address, family members and travel dates. With the tracking and demographic data, they have a pretty good idea about your habits at their resorts. You can even tie your credit card to your ticket for on-mountain purchases. I imagine the database thinking something like this (you know, if databases could think):

The Jones family starts skiing at 10am most days. Not surprising since they are from the East coast and have the time change. The kids are both in ski school today ... cha-ching! Oh look, mom and dad just stopped for lunch at the high end restaurant and the kids are eating pizza at the casual on-mountain restaurant. Mom skis black diamonds mostly and is logging 2x as much vertical as dad. They seem to come out every year around the same two weeks. Judging from their address, I bet they make about $110,000 a year and take two major vacations. We should email them a month before, I'll make a note of it. I wonder if they'd want a time share....

Pretty spooky huh?

So what did Vail do to change the value proposition of their data capturing? They launched EpicMix, a customer facing portal into the data. You sign up and register the ID number from your lift ticket. From there, things get social very fast. There is a FourSquare like game component where you earn pins - just like the real pins you see on people's hats or jackets - for accomplishments. Ski 26,400 feet and you get the 5 Miler pin. Head into the Northwoods area and you get the Gone Wild pin. The service also tracks your runs and vertical feet per day and season and lets you compete against friends and family. There's even iPhone and Android apps to track your stats in real time. And, of course, it all connects to Facebook and Twitter.

This year, Vail gave professional third party photographers the boot. Now, Vail's own photogs hang out near huge EpicMix Photo placards around the mountain. Ski up, and they scan the RFID tag on your ticket and snap a few pics. That evening, the pictures are uploaded to your EpicMix account and can be shared on Facebook or Twitter for free.

Vail took customer tracking and turned it into a value added service. It's a draw, something Vail's resorts have which other ski areas don't have.

It will come as no surprise I see a healthcare analogue in all of this. Rather than capture data about customers and keep it to themselves, Vail turned it into a customer-facing service. Does your doctor treat your medical records the same way? Can you go online and look at them? Do you get rewarded, even virtually, for losing those 10 pounds or controlling your asthma? Can you chose to share parts of your record with family or friends?  Can you chart your A1C scores over time?

Even with the rise of patient access into electronic medical records,  we've still got a ways to go before we reach the same level of understanding about personal data. I continue to see consumer devices and services leading the trend, which tells me two things: 1) people do want to own, collect, monitor and selectively share aspects of their health and 2) the consumer oriented companies can do it for cheaper. The later is likely owed to less red tape, regulations, research, etc. To be fair, there are iPhone apps which will graph your weight. And there are iPhone apps which will track your skied vertical feet. But the value of that data changes when it's shared with your provider (not that it has to originate with them, mind you).

Any thoughts? Are you aware of any provider organizations who are going beyond MyChart (an example of a patient EMR portal) and offering value added analysis and services on top of YOUR health data? What kinds of things would you want to see, beyond direct, unfettered access to the record?

By the way, according to my EpicMix dashboard, in the last 12 months, I've skied 121,453 vertical feet at Vail resorts... not too shabby for busted knees!

Since I've basically given Vail a free ad, I might as well embed their EpicMix video, it explains the service pretty well:

two knees, or not two knees

Editors note: yes, I went there on the title. Yes, I studied English in college and no I'm not ashamed of the cliche turn of phrase.... maybe a littleYou go in there My first reaction was to laugh, I think it caught my doctor off guard. "It's the ACL," he said shaking his head. The look on his face was earnest disappointment at the diagnosis. Maybe it was the eight weeks that had passed since the injury, or the fact that I skied out the rest of the season, but my only reaction was laughter. And, when you consider the circumstances, it is pretty funny.

Last April, we were out in Vail on the first day of a week long trip. My dad and I separated from my mother and my wife to go ski outer Mongolia in some soft but quite nice spring snow. Since he had the video camera, I had him go first with the intention of rocking through the bumps and getting some ego footage. I had a great run and took my time coming to a stop at the relatively flat bottom. As I was coasting slowly I lost my balance, the back of my ski dug in to some lose snow and I went over like a slinky. I heard a pop, shouted some choice words and lay there in pain for at least 10 minutes.I managed to ski down the front side of Vail, mostly on one ski (thanks years of race training for that useful trick!).

(I documented a lot of that process here and tagged posts as ACL) I had the reconstruction at home and this winter was back on the snow, skiing better than before the fall. It was a painful surgery and the rehab was hard - mostly because  it was boring and time consuming, not all together painful. On the one year anniversary, to the day, of that fall we were out in Steamboat. Same story- the old man and I hitting the back bowls. On our way back to the front, we came upon The Boat's section of double black diamonds. So I did the reasonable thing and sent my father ahead with the video camera. My thought was to get a video to send to my orthopedic doc to show him my full recovery. What would be a better testimonial than me flying down an impossably steep double black one year after my injury and reconstruction?

Right as I was taking off, Dire Straits' Espresso Love came on my iPod. For the whole year, I had avoided listening to that song. It was playing when I went down last year! But I was in mid turn, and off to a nice start and decided to ignore it. I skied a fairly iced out steep pitch nicely, although not as gracefully as I would I have liked. I took a pause and came to a gliding stop and thats when it happened.

The same, exact fall. Right knee this time. Same pop, but not nearly as much pain and no loss of range of motion (no swelling) I again skied off the mountain and even skied the rest of that week; followed by another two trips out west of some seriously hard skiing. In fact, I even bought two new pairs of skis this year because I was skiing so well. Unfortunately this right knee just has not changed. It is no worse, but no better either, there  is a constant dull pain. I've been in the gym pretty hard (squatting 360lbs often) and it feels stable when I run. Walking is another story, it does not totally slip out like my left did pre-surgery, but it locks up a bit with some significant pain at random times.

I broke down, had the MRI and consult. The diagnosis is a torn right ACL. Surgery seems imminent, and I am begining to make peace with that. My hope is, since I did not swell and do not have the resulting muscle loss, that I can do an abbreviated PT schedule and get back into the gym sooner. I'd rather not lose the ground on the weight loss and fitness while I convalesce for another 6 months.

So add this to the list of posts on this blog tagged with ACL... lets home this does not become an annual feature!

The Patient Patient - why being cared for & about wins every time

I had intended to write a different post this week; when I speak to healthcare groups I often use what I have dubbed as my 'airline analogy'. However from where I am seated it just does not feel appropriate. For starters I am at 35,000 feet somewhere over the midwest. That in itself is not unremarkable- I am no stranger to travel. However, this is the first time that I have flown with crutches and an immobilizing leg brace.

The last week was supposed to be our annual ski trip. Let me avoid mincing words by saying that its the week I most look forward to in the year; I work towards the trip all year. Unfortunately this year my professional and personal life were more woven together than I would have cared for.

On the first day our our trip I took a fall that was substantial enough to sever the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and damage the meniscus of my left knee in two places. In short, a total blowout. Endorphins and poorly placed ego got me off the mountain under my own power, but the next day things where pretty banged up. My knee was well over twice the size that it should have been and my range of motion was almost zero.

I spent most of Monday in the Steadman-Hawkins Orthopedic Clinic in the Vail Valley

Medical Center. The name Steadman-Hawkins may not be familiar, but the roster of patients would make any sports fan's head swim. The corridor from the elevator to the clinic door (ironically long for a place that specializes in busted joints) is covered with

jerseys, posters, notes and pictures. Chances are that if a pro athlete has suffered an orthopedic injury in the last 10 years, they were probably treated at Steadman-Hawkins.


You are probably asking yourself how an amateur skier got in the door. More on that later.

Every Sunday night there is a group of healthcare and marketing professionals and enthusiasts who use Twitter as a chat-room. Using the 'hashtag' #healthcomm we spend an hour discussing ideas surrounding social media and healthcare. It's fast paced and intense and I always come out thinking about some topic differently. Recently the discussion was about how patients find their care - physicians, hospitals, etc - and what makes a difference.

Many of us who work in hospitals believe strongly in rankings, awards and recognitions. I've written before about the Healthcare Highway in Richmond. Billboards flaunt "Top 100 cardiac care" and "best place to have a baby". But at the end of the day what do those lines really mean? Who said you are a top 100 cardio hospital? Are they objective, are they national and most importantly does a patient really care?

A few facts: in most hospitals, 80% of patients come in through the ER. Those that have non-urgent surgery or deliver babies are usually directed to a hospital by their physician. In other words, most patients do not pick their hospital. When it comes to physicians the story is pretty similar. People are influenced by word of mouth for their primary physician but how do people find a specialist? According to the American College of Surgeons more than one-third of Americans do no research at all. Those who do research their surgeon spend less than one hour doing so (compared to four hours planning a vacation).

I consider myself fortunate and not just in the sense that I will make a full recovery. Though personal and professional connections I was able to get a same-day appointment at Steadman-Hawkins. Most people would go to the ER and while I am confident that they would still receive excellent care, I am doubtful that it would have been as personal as my visit was. After the consult I had a choice: surgery with a world-renound physician or travel home where I could recuperate in more comfortable surroundings. There is a lot to be said for having surgery at home, from followup care to sleeping in your own bed. The challenge was finding an orthopedic surgeon in Richmond that I would have the same level of confidence in. This is where working for a health system has its advantages. Not only am in the less than one-third who does research their care, I have the professional skill set to wade through the nonsense and the acquired confidence to push through the red tape. I know the difference between an orthopedic fellowship in one place and a residency at another. I have no problem insisting to speak to doctor's nurse rather than waiting for a call-back that may never come. And when push comes to shove, I know first hand the financial ramifications for me, the physician and insurance. At the end of the day, what made the difference was speaking to a doctor in Richmond. This particular surgeon, either through coaching or personal gift, made a real and genuine connection. Here was someone that I knew could care for me and who had made a point to care about me. That is a winner every time.

There is no profound take-away here, just a recognition of a few things. Saying that you are number one may not mean as much as we think. There is no doubt that it strengthens employee engagement, and that is a great thing. But for most patients, the billboards have very little impact. I have discussed on this site the relevance of The Cluetrain Manifesto. That work suggests that a personal connection goes further than anything else in impacting markets. Furthermore, as social networks level the playing field across the powder-distance index, it makes it eve easier for patients to build that relationship. Post a comment on a forums about a bad physician and there will be an impact, even if the doc is unaware. Say something great and patients will beat a path to their door (look at Steadman-Hawkins). When the physicians take the time to reenforce those positive statements by making a personal connections it will always be a success. Providers need to participate in that relationship by making sure the image they cultivate is one that makes sense to patients and employees, not just industry insiders.

As patients, we have to realize that the power is already in our hands. The ACS suggests that If you were going to spend $1,000 on vacation you would take the time to make an informed decision. Shouldn't we do at least that much when it comes to our health? Being cared for and about has two components- clinical quality and real human caring. If you cannot get the information or response, demand it. Not sure what the federal quality measures on the hospital's site means? Ask until you get an answer you are satisfied with. If you sense physician or the hospital does not care about you personally, go some place else. What does it say about a doctor who discourages patients from discussing their care? Do your homework and make sure you are being cared for and cared about.