The Patient as Co-Author

Experiencing good health year-round usually doesn’t occur when you’re a passive spectator to the medical profession. It’s far better to step up to the role of co-designer and co-producer of your health and wellbeing in concert with your doctor and everyone else that you fit your lifestyle around, whether that is the local grocer or your morning walking partner. But while it’s relatively easy to make sense of the grocery aisle, most of us are walking in the dark when it comes to understanding a partnership with our doctors.

Understanding that patient engagement is critical to patient health, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) of Boston created an innovative program called OpenNotes. Supported by the good folks at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – the powerplayer in health philanthropy – OpenNotes enables patients to view their health care providers’ notes after visits via a free online portal called PatientSite. When patients have access to the notes, not only can they better understand their own condition, but importantly, they can share that information with people who may help with their care. Nice.

Access to patients’ own medical records has reached more than five million Americans, and by the sounds of it this number will only continue to escalate. A study took a look at 20,000 patients in three areas of the country and found that patients with access to their doctors’ notes had better treatment plan recall and reported better adherence to their medication routines. (more…)

First Response is Gaining Height

Imagine if you were to call 911 in response to someone having a heart attack and the ambulance arrived within one minute. You’d hardly have time to panic before a medic arrived! When it comes to heart failure or terrible accidents, one minute is already pushing it, and it is nearly impossible that an ambulance could arrive that quickly.

A very bright graduate of the Technical University of Delft IDE located in the Netherlands has a solution to this time crunch problem. The Ambulance Drone is the result of Alec Momont’s Master’s thesis project and it’s got some real potential.

It’s a lightweight drone (made with an ultra light carbon fiber frame and 3D-printed materials) that can arrive on-scene in approximately 60 seconds. To answer the skeptics’ suspicions right off the bat – this is assuming that eventually these drones will be stocked anywhere ambulances are. The drone flies around 62 miles per hour and doesn’t have to wait for lights to change or for clueless drivers to get out of its way. (more…)

Farm-to-Table, But Not Where You’d Expect

I love to read about, listen to and discuss healthcare. Being a resident of Minnesota, I am exposed to some of the most progressive and commendable healthcare initiatives taking place in our fair nation, and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten to see much of it develop. What really excites me is when I see activity that is intended to change the underlying design from one that is focused on sickness to one that further develops the “health” in healthcare. In other words: designs that promote, preserve and monetize keeping us away from sickness. It’s not often that you see these designs in hospitals, but when those worlds are melded it makes for a particularly noteworthy effort.

For example last December I blogged about a Detroit-area hospital’s progressive culinary initiative – an on-site greenhouse to provide patients with natural and nutritious foods. And this past August I wrote about a hospital’s upgraded rooms that resulted in a huge decrease in requests for medicines from the patients.

Well I’ve got another example of hospital ingenuity to file away in the healthcare folder: the Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin has an in-house restaurant with food so excellent that it attracts members of the community – not just those visiting the patients. Yes, the restaurant is part of the hospital’s “food service” offering, but the plates are of such a high quality that people travel to consume it. The hospital is situated near a farm that pumps them with produce, which yielded 60 crops this year! They even source local meat, purchasing two full cows annually. (more…)

Saving Calories and Depositing them Where They’re Needed

It’s no secret that health problems like obesity and diabetes have been increasingly plaguing our country. It’s also common knowledge that many Americans go to bed hungry every night, unsure when their next meal might be. To be exact: Fast Company says that more than 200 million Americans are overweight or obese while 49 million Americans don’t have enough to eat. That’s beyond a little ironic, and it speaks to a food system design dysfunction of massive proportions.

It’s a complex series of problems that are tough to tackle in and of themselves, so the idea of addressing these ends of the spectrum in one design seems like a stretch. But an app called Foodtweeks has set out to tackle both of these issues by creating a system in which you can “save” your calories and “donate” them to a food shelf. (more…)

This Shark-like Skin Makes Way for Shark-like Immunity

Biomimicry is something I’ve become rather interested in as of late. It’s the discipline that studies nature and imitates its designs and processes to help solve human problems. The Mother Nature Network lists seven great examples of biomimicry that you should take a look at to familiarize yourself with this type of innovation. Perhaps you’ve heard of swimsuit material that mimics sharkskin in order to reduce drag. That design was so successful that it was made illegal. Yep, don’t suit up like a shark if you want to compete on the international stage.

I always got a kick out of that one. Sometimes Mother Nature’s designs can be too perfect I guess. So I found it interesting when I read about another shark-inspired product that mimics these fascinating surfaces for a very different reason … and the more perfect the better in this case.

Introducing Sharklet, a sharkskin-like material that hospitals are looking to as a way to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria. According to its website, Sharklet is the “first no-kill, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly surface texture designed to inhibit bacterial growth including MRSA, E. coliStaph a.,Pseudomonas aeruginosa, VRE and a host of other bacteria.” In other words, this material comprised of microscopic ridges and grooves is an inhospitable place for bacteria to grow.   (more…)

Refining your Health, One Sip at a Time

Literacy can be a very powerful tool.

How much do you know about the beverage in your hand? Do you know how much protein is in your bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Coffee? If so, do you understand it in the context of what is recommended for your daily protein intake?

To some, the answer is a resounding YES to the above questions. Indeed, there are some who are very health conscious and have a specific literacy. For the vast majority, however, we could use a little awareness in our drinking habits. And so for the rest of us semi-literates out there, here’s a new product that will really help:

Vessyl is a revolutionary drinking cup that provides you with an analysis of what is inside. Sensors read the liquid within and when you pick up your cup, the exterior lights up and tells you exactly what you’re consuming. Instant literacy! (more…)

Bringing Health Into Hospitals From The Outside

No one wants to be in a hospital, right? They’re serious places where serious activity occurs. But there have been great strides in creating environments that aid the patient experience. Go into many new or newly remodeled hospitals and you’ll see lighting, architecture, furnishings and art that may remind you of a hotel. And this isn’t just for cosmetic purposes; positive patient experiences have documented positive impact on patient outcomes.

But when it comes to mealtime, you’ll probably be reminded that you’re not staying at some swanky hotel. Or maybe not. (more…)

Healthcare Access For the Price of a Couple of Lattes

There are nearly a dozen countries in the world where one in four kids don’t make it to age five as a result of the absence of healthcare access. Resources that most of us take for granted – like clean water and air, proximity to doctors and simple technology – could contribute immensely to places like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; places where healthcare services are practically nonexistent. Indeed, these places have a paucity of any infrastructure, let alone health care infrastructure, and as such this seems like an intractable problem. And yet, a San Francisco-based company called Medic Mobile is looking to tackle this challenge head-on and in a very creative way.

Medic Mobile (which was founded by Josh Nesbit in his dorm room at Stanford) has a very succinct mission statement: improve healthcare in under-served communities using mobile technology. And inexpensive mobile technology at that! Medic Mobile develops simple software that provides community health workers with access to health records, mapping of health services and data collection, all on their mobile devices. (more…)

A $25,000 Challenge to Keep it Simple

When you look at a retailer like Target and its unique positioning as an “upscale” discounter, you’ll notice a few things. One is that it not only has to be excellent at the science of retailing but it must also push the art of being a merchant. Being an artful merchant is about design, curation and expert editing of offerings. And these days you can add social innovation to Target’s fashion traditions.

Target’s latest social innovation leans into the world of wellness and disease prevention, in addition to recovery and maintenance of health conditions, and pushes its desire to serve its guests’ needs well beyond the pharmacy counter.  But that’s not even the beginning of the innovation because this time the initiative starts outside of Target’s walls with the ideas coming from the most creative minds in our neighborhoods.  (more…)

Healthcare as a Matter of Personal Practice

Those of you who have read this blog for a while have heard me wax on about our healthcare system, which is actually a sickcare system. If you look at the bulk of our healthcare spending, you can attribute much of it to two broad arenas: 1) Get sick and someone will fix you and 2) death is optional (OK, at this writing it isn’t exactly “optional,” but death is treated as a disease in our society and billions are spent delaying departure at any cost).

Listen, if you are sick, there’s no better place to be on Earth. But if you want to keep well … well that’s a different story. I’ve highlighted all types of elements of what it means to create a health habitat, or healthier lifestyles more easily approached because of great design. From food offerings to redesigning offices that promote small movements throughout the day, we’re seeing a bevy of creative approaches aimed at changing not just how we think about healthcare, but how we actually live it.  (more…)