Designing for Healthy Habits & Better Outcomes

We’re in full-scale planning mode for the 2019 Connected Health Conference and I am once again honored to be Program Chair.  Our initial two tasks are complete. First, we assembled a world-class advisory board which, to a person, has provided extraordinary counsel, ideas and connections that are helping shape our program. Our second task, choosing a theme, has also been accomplished.
Like everything in life, thoughtful planning is the basis of success, and each year we spend a significant amount of time thinking about our theme.  The Connected Health Conference is a place where people come to get a look at the near-term future and meet the innovators and thought leaders who will make that future a reality.  Our goal is for folks to leave the event feeling like they have a sense of what is going to happen in their sector over the next 24-36 months.  We view the theme as the cornerstone of the foundation upon which we build the content for the conference.

(Photo by Marianne O’Hare)

Take, for example, the 2018 theme, “Balancing Technology and the Human Element.” It really captured something that was on peoples’ minds and allowed attendees to have grounded conversations, make new connections and gain a deeper understanding about the big picture, as well as the finer points of success in this market.
Our annual call to action is to outdo ourselves, never intending to rest on the laurels of the previous year’s achievements.  2019 will mark the third year Partners Connected Health has teamed with the HIMSS Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHAlliance) to produce the Connected Health Conference. While I focus on the programming with DeAnna Grosbaum and Janna Guinen, our colleague Mary Sheridan manages the myriad logistics and planning that go into a three-day event, along with a cadre of marketing, social media and event logistics gurus from HIMSS.  We also leverage the deep knowledge and experience of folks like my former colleague, Rob Havasy, as well as John Sharp and others within HIMSS and PCHAlliance.
As this dedicated and diverse group took on the challenge of creating this year’s theme, there was some lively debate and discussion, but we all landed on the same spot.
As increasing numbers of connected health interventions are gaining hold in the market, we are witnessing, in real-time, the power of well-designed interventions, as well as the peril of poorly designed ones.  Despite the recent hue and cry for more ‘patient or consumer-centric’ solutions, there are numerous examples of technology created by individuals who feel they have the insights to ‘know what is best’ without involving patients/consumers in the design.  Rarely does this level of arrogance lead to real breakthrough products, tapping into something we ‘didn’t realize we needed,’ but all too often, the result is roundly off point.
Thus, Design seems like a timely and important topic for us to convene around.

ePal Pain Management App

We are just beginning to appreciate how connected health interventions can inspire and sustain healthy habits.  The statistics swirling around the tsunami of chronic illness are no less compelling than in years past, so it is critical we find some new strategies for inspiring healthy habits.  As we learn more and more about what makes mobile apps addictive and put some of those principles (social interactions, gamification, feedback loops, etc.) to good use in the design of connected health interventions, it is becoming more clear how we might combine the ubiquity of smartphones with its addictive components to effect substantial improvements in public health.  One example of this is an app called ePAL developed by our team at Partners Pivot Labs, in collaboration with Dr. Mihir Kamdar at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Palliative Care.  Another is the success of Livongo, where the user experience is built on many of these principles.
But because it really is just the beginning, we need to have a dialogue around Healthy Habits.

Health Affairs December 2018

This past year, I had the pleasure of helping friends at Health Affairs put together a special issue on Telehealth.  One of the topics addressed in a number of articles was the slow and uneven growth of telehealth adoption.  Overall, physician adoption is now at about 15%. While there is undeniable growth, we still have a long way to go.  Mental health, for example, is a standout. In another article looking at a large payer claims database, in 2010, mental health utilization went from just under two visits per 1,000 to near 17 per 1,000 in 2017.  While there are multiple factors that could explain this sluggish growth, there is a clear need for ongoing dialogue about telehealth and quality.  For this reason, we felt we should include Better Outcomes as a content focus.
As we looked at these concepts, we saw a potential for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts.
So our theme for 2019 is:  Designing for Healthy Habits and Better Outcomes.  We are well on our way to creating the structure for the content that will fill out this vision and have been leaning heavily on our advisory board for their input. And what a constellation of advisors we have in place. With their guidance, ideas and inspiration, I’m confident that our 2019 program will exceed your expectations. I am excited to see this content vision taking shape and look forward to seeing you all in October in Boston for CHC 2019!


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