Apr15

ResearchKit: A Medical Research Revolution?

Research Kit Blog Image SizedIn what boils down to crowd-sourcing medical information, Apple’s ResearchKit promises to turn the iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research. But will it live up to that promise?

Apple is putting the power of clinical trials in our pockets with ResearchKit, the open-source software framework designed for medical and health research. It will help doctors and scientists gather data more frequently and more accurately from clinical research participants using iPhone apps, enabling faster insights at lower cost.

ResearchKit leverages the sensors and other capabilities of the iPhone to track movement, take measurements and record data. When granted permission from the user, ResearchKit can access data from Apple’s HealthKit app such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels, which are measured by third-party devices and apps. ResearchKit can also request access from the user to access the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors to gain insight into a user’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

Several world-class research institutions have already developed apps with ResearchKit for studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Using the built-in templates for informed consent, users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data—and which parts of their data—is shared. Participants can perform activities and generate data wherever they are, providing more objective information than simply filling out forms for their activities.

More data will be generated through these apps for researchers to analyze than ever before. For example, just four days after its release, Stanford University School of Medicine’s MyHeart Counts app was downloaded 52,900 times, with over 22,000 users consenting to the study. But more data isn’t necessarily better data.

On the surface, ResearchKit sounds like the long-awaited answer to ongoing issues in traditional clinical trial processes, including limited participation due to proximity to institutions running trials, frequent data entry and the integrity of that data and limited data collection.

Apple has created three customizable modules to address the most common elements across different types of clinical studies: surveys, informed consent and active tasks. Programmers can use these modules as they are, build upon them or even create new modules of their own.

ResearchKit initially includes five active task modules that invite users to perform activities under semi-controlled conditions, while iPhone sensors actively collect data. The tasks can be a simple ordered sequence of steps or dynamic, with previous results informing what is presented. In this way, researchers and programmers can create custom apps for their relevant disease states. These modules simply record the data and pass it on to the researchers; Apple does not store it or track it in any way.

Since ResearchKit resides on the iPhone, it will be easier to recruit participants for large-scale studies, accessing a broad cross-section of the population. The data that it collects mostly comes from sensors and other apps; there is little chance of error in the measurements as compared to patients recording their data in paper-based diaries. Even the data that patients will enter themselves into ResearchKit apps will be more accurate: programmers can put limits on that data so that it fits within proper parameters.

Although ResearchKit solves many issues with clinical trials, it also creates some of its own.

Patient population

Apple promises access to a diverse, global population through ResearchKit, but that population might not represent the population as a whole.

IPhone users are more wealthy and educated than the general population, and minority groups are underrepresented in its user base. Additionally, ResearchKit is only available on iPhone 5 and newer models and the latest generation of iPod touch, which excludes a large segment of iPhone users.

On top of that, the patient populations for ResearchKit apps will be largely self-selected: those using the apps are already likely to be interested in their own health. So can the results generated from this narrowly defined population be extrapolated to the population as a whole?

Another point to consider with the self-selected patient population is that app desertion rate can be high, so researchers won’t have complete data from those who don’t finish the trial. This will also bias the data toward better outcomes since those who actually finish the trials are more motivated to see a positive outcome.

Data Validation

There is no validation that participants have a specific condition before they can enter a trial. This lack of verification can further skew the results of the trials. Going forward, tighter controls on who can enroll in each trial by verifying their basic information will lead to better qualified participants and more robust trial data.

Secure Communication

Verifying participants’ information might be hampered by the current lack of secure communication mechanisms between ResearchKit apps and their researchers’ servers.

This is up to the app developers to implement, as is HIPAA compliance and compliance with international research regulations. Even if secure communications are implemented properly by app developers, sharing personal medical information is a sensitive subject—especially with current data breaches. There will likely always be privacy concerns, especially in participants who don’t fully understand how their health data will be used.

Big Data

ResearchKit trials could potentially have hundreds of thousands of participants, each one with the potential to have inaccurate data. How will researchers separate the signal from the noise with such large amounts of data?

Cleaning that data will be a huge job, and further making inferences from that data to the general population could be difficult. Building trust in the trial results in light of the challenges listed here could be an uphill battle with the general public. More thought needed here.

Going forward, simple improvements such as data validation will go a long way toward more qualified patient populations and more robust trial outcomes. But how can ResearchKit be made available to a more representative patient population?

The answer could lie in the open source framework of ResearchKit. Researchers will have the ability to contribute to specific activity modules in the framework, like memory or gait testing, and share them with the global research community to further advance what we know about disease. And since it’s open source, there is the opportunity to expand into the Android realm as well.

On a global scale, Android is the far more popular operating system, and its user base is more representative of the population as a whole. It would benefit these clinical studies if users across platforms could use these apps.

That said, Android has a fragmented operating system with disparate hardware platforms that have differences in their sensors (accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes), and even in chipsets from device to device. Researchers would have to account for all of these differences and build and test apps across platforms, which is nearly impossible on their limited budgets.

While ResearchKit is not the perfect solution for clinical trials research, it is a good first step, especially when it comes to to clinical trial recruitment, which has been the bane of the healthcare industry for far too long. Results of the pioneering ResearchKit apps—for asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease—will reveal the true utility of such a mobile, global medical research solution.

This article was originally published in Medical Marketing & Media.

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Mar11

Are You Harnessing the Power of Video in Healthcare Yet?

Young woman with gold fish tankDid you realise that the average attention span of a person has dropped to only 8 seconds? That’s one second less than a goldfish!

Video can combat this. It is a fantastic way to hook people in and capture their attention. Online video is growing so quickly that this is an opportunity that’s impossible to ignore:

  • Views on mobile devices have increased 400% in the past 2 years
  • YouTube is now the second most popular search engine behind Google, with 40% of its traffic coming from mobile
  • 80% of online visitors will watch a video all the way through, compared with 20% who will read a webpage

Patients are being diagnosed via video, surgeons are swapping clips on operation techniques, and, as everyone is rapidly becoming more and more mobile-connected, healthcare knowledge sharing will soon have no boundaries.

It’s likely that for whatever purpose, be it for a symposium or for patient education, your video will end up online, where it will receive the majority of its views. But it’s a noisy world out there, and one rule is key: keep it short, smart, and snappy.

What kind of video content should you choose?

The great news is that there are all kinds of exciting options that won’t break the budget. Think about who the audience is and how they’ll be watching. Are they using a small screen? With or without sound? On social media? Or at a live presentation…could Dr Smith at the back please put his mobile down and watch? (Hopefully if he enjoys it he’ll search for it later online, “like” it and share with his colleagues.)

Explore the different ways to cThe Other Sideonnect with your audience. Enriched video content is great for increasing user engagement, and interactive user-defined storytelling can be a totally immersive experience. It lets you get the right messages to each individual user by letting them click on objects in the video to influence what they see. “Choose a Different Ending” is a beautiful example of a great campaign tackling knife crime that drew immediate response. And another of the best ones I’ve seen recently is The Other Side of Honda.”

Or, if you need to get more complex data across in a way that quickly informs and engages, use an animated infographic to make data come alive. These motion graphics pack a huge visual punch, are bursting with information, and are rapidly becoming key tools to promote branded messages. For a truly multi-layered, fast and constantly moving example with beautiful visual transitions, you can’t beat “STUXNET: The Virus That Almost Started WW3.”

Whatever you want to achieve, remember you’re not alone. We recommend that you use a Creative and Motion team to help you get all those questions answered on the way to making great videos.

Video is a super strategy to stand out from the competition and it’s definitely a healthcare trend that’s already here and set to keep on growing.

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Jan21

How to Have Your Digital Gadgets and Sleep Too

Haley Dix Blog Thumbnail SmallI am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I thought maybe I should go back to using a regular alarm clock and turn my digital devices off an hour before going to bed. Recent studies have proven that our beloved electronics may hinder sleep.

Although this resolution could be quite beneficial, I couldn’t help thinking about the following:

“What if I miss a breaking news alert from CNN?”
“What if I don’t respond to a time-sensitive text?”
“What if Beyoncé releases another album on Instagram at midnight?

I guess you can say I have a slight case of “Fear of Missing Out,” popularly known as FOMO. Aside from these hypothetical scenarios, you may find yourself experiencing work-related FOMO. It’s no secret that many of us use electronics to sift through emails or work-related checklists one last time before turning off the lights. Although those 30 minutes at 10 PM on Microsoft Outlook seem harmless, your production of melatonin can be effected. The blue light within electronics can increase brain activity and prevent the pineal gland from releasing melatonin hours before bedtime. This results in your body fighting off the feeling of being tired. While it is advantageous to have your devices on at work to increase alertness, if your goal is rest, blue lights can become the enemy.

So how can we enjoy technology and still gain quality rest?

The idea is gaining momentum worldwide—in 2013, Germany implemented a new practice, discouraging employees from sending work emails after hours, except in cases of emergencies. In 2014, France took to the trend, encouraging employees to turn off their phones and refrain from checking email after their work is complete. Companies such as Volkswagen, Google and Facebook have also made efforts in discouraging late-night email correspondence.

Perhaps we can impose some discipline on our social interactions, but it could be hard to enforce digital abstinence, for example, when you are working on a pitch. But we can still make an effort to promote more healthful digital habits for our teams and ourselves. Perhaps you can set an “email silence” time with your team after jobs are no longer routing for the night. Or insist on a phone call if an emergency arises, rather than constantly trading email. Anything to avoid staring at the blue light into the late hours of the night.

So whether your FOMO is attributed to social or work activities, making a few minor changes can help you enjoy your device and not compromise resting. You may even fall in love with, dare I say, paperback books again in the quest to take small breaks from your gadgets. If so, author Ann Droyd offers a humorous quick read titled Goodnight iPad that could bring a chuckle the next time you see one of your blue-light glowing friends.

If you’re not ready to go cold turkey and find yourself having a hard time being pried away from the phone or tablet, try f.lux. This program can be downloaded to your electronic devices and uses warmer lights instead of blue lights, to help the production of melatonin remain uninterrupted. With this work-around, you may be able to watch episodes of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, sift through the week’s sports rankings, meander through Pinterest recipes for quinoa, and even pay Microsoft Outlook a visit. Just make sure you and your digital gadgets can say, “Good night.”

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Dec3

Stories to Tell: Facebook for Health Care Brands

Stories to Tell Facebook for Health Care Brands BLOG Image2We all know Facebook is a powerful storytelling platform for brands. But in health care, FDA regulation and privacy rules often leave us watching our counterparts in consumer marketing with jealousy. A recent example of our work with Hackensack University Medical Center demonstrates not only that health care brands can carry out effective content strategies on social media platforms, it can even be simple to accomplish.

HackensackUMC is consistently rated as the top hospital in New Jersey by US News & World Reports. One particular area of excellence is its nursing program. The hospital is one of just two in the nation to earn the prestigious Magnet nursing designation five consecutive times, representing 20 years of distinction.

Last May, during National Nurses Week, we proposed creating a series of Facebook posts where each day would feature a short story and photo of a HackensackUMC nurse.

The work was minimal: we conducted a 20 minute phone interview with each nurse and asked him or her to provide us with a photo. The response was tremendous: The stories we posted about each nurse quickly became the most engaging content the hospital has ever posted on its Facebook page.

Of particular note, on Wednesday of National Nurses Week, the story of about Dennis Leenig Jr., a pediatric oncology nurse, received over 450 likes, 50 comments and 25 shares. Here’s the post:

It’s not unusual to find Dennis Leenig, Jr. sitting and talking with a patient a half hour after his shift has finished for the day. “Working with leukemia patients, I like that I get to see people through all stages of their care. You get to establish a rapport,” he says. It’s a relationship that continues even after a patient has gone home. Dennis always conducts follow up calls to patients after they’re discharged to see how they’re feeling and to make sure they’re not having trouble getting any medications. “Patients have told me I’m like a son to them and that means the world to me.” Dennis remembers when his own father was a cancer patient at HackensackUMC. A nursing student at the time, it was while visiting his father that he realized his calling was in oncology.

Even more powerful than what we wrote about Dennis, were the testimonials that former patients posted in the comments section. Some excerpts:

Hey Dennis, I remember you well. I felt like I was in expert hands and it was clear to me that your concern for my wellbeing was sincere and genuine. Thank you for making a stressful event a little less so.

We love Dennis and know him well after having many visits to 8PW over the past 4 years with our son. His love and dedication to all patients goes above and beyond. Thank you, Dennis, for all that you do. You have become like family to us.

Dennis, when my uncle was in your care I felt reassured knowing that he had an all-around great guy to help him. He really liked you and spoke highly of you. He fought a good fight but the cancer was too aggressive. I have the utmost respect for what you do on a daily basis and I wanted to thank you again (and the rest of the doctors, nurses, and staff) for everything you did to make his life more comfortable when he was in your care.

The marketing and PR value of these posts is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place with such compassionate, attentive care? And Dennis was just one of seven nurses we featured that week.

But another benefit of sharing these stories on Facebook is easy to overlook: Facebook as an internal communications tool. The nurses were honored that we thought to interview them for the Facebook page and proud to receive public recognition for their work. And their colleagues enjoyed reading the stories and having a public place to record their praise. It was a morale boost all around.

We are constantly uncovering great stories like Dennis’s. But in this regard, HackensackUMC is not unique. All of our clients’ organizations are brimming with stories.

Maybe it’s easier to find them in a hospital, where nurses are touching lives every hour of every day. But great stories are everywhere–even in corporate settings. What motivated a pharmaceutical company executive to enter the health care industry? Why did a research scientist decide to focus on this particular disease state?

The answers to these questions are personal stories. Telling them brings out the human side of a corporation and pulls employees closer together. New media tools like Facebook make it easy to bring them to the public. And the public is hungry hear these stories from your brand. Especially in health care.

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Sep15

Responsive Web Design in Pharma

CREATIVE MOBILE BLOG PHOTO2Data is showing that we are using smartphones more and more for everyday items—searches, purchasing consumer products, travel, weather, and World Cup updates, just to name a few.

We also see smartphone users searching on prescription drugs. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) are using mobile more in their practices, yet the branded drug websites are not optimized for viewing on their phones. We see this as a missed opportunity to provide the information need to the device being used.

 

In the pharma space, we are seeing an uptick with websites moving to a responsive design methodology with consumers—but not with HCPs. We need to understand how HCPs are using their device in the office. By thinking mobile first, we can better serve their needs. Focusing on the user experience with information architecture and content strategy, we can provide the right information to the user, spanning across multiple devices.

 

This would be extremely helpful for our HCPs. If I need to look up a dosing chart for a specific drug while in the exam room, I should be able to use my mobile device to view and interact with the chart. Later, when moving to the desktop, I should have the same content and experience.


RWDP

The chart to the left is a good example to see how content can be organized from the desktop to smartphone. Take note of the design grid and how it responds to device screen sizes.

 

A good example in the pharma space is Forum Pharmaceuticals (forumpharma.com). Simple, easy to navigate, and the experience stays with you through the multiple devices. This makes for a happier end user.

 

 

 

 

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Sep11

Are Apple’s new offerings really ready for healthcare?

RPBLOGApple fans were waiting with bated breath for this week. And in usual Apple style, the company did not disappoint the vast numbers of people who eagerly sat through a staged presentation of the new products Apple will be foisting upon us in the next six months.

The new iPhone 6 is a sleeker, stylish phone with a bigger screen, a plethora of new groundbreaking apps such as Apple Pay, and powerful technology that could make the phone even more personal than it is now.

And as if that were not enough, Apple provided a double-whammy by showcasing the new Apple Watch, a truly innovative and stylish mini device that will change the simple task of telling the time.

With these two new devices, Apple also began to stake a claim in the health and wellness arena.

Let’s take the phone. It comes bearing the next generation of Apple’s powerful M chip—the M8. This chip enables Apple to turn the iPhone into a fitness tracker. The next generation motion coprocessor and sensor will know whether you’re riding a bike, running, or speed walking. It will also be able to estimate distance as well as how far you’ve gone. Finally, it will track elevation, thanks to its very own barometer, which will pick out your relative elevation by measuring air pressure.

All of this data will be collected by the new HealthKit app with powerful and intuitive dashboards and displays to help the owners of the device to begin tracking and analyzing all manner of activities.

The Apple Watch enters a largely unregulated personal health tracker business, taking on Fitbit, Jawbone, and other wearable devices. This is a powerful device. It is a pedometer, a heart-rate monitor, and it comes with a robust array of fitness tracking features, including “rings” to track your movement.

The Move ring will track your normal amount of activity, such as walking. The Exercise ring will track all manner of exercise routines, and the Stand ring will measure how long you stand or sit during the day.

But the watch also becomes your personal coach and will give you customized reminders to reach fitness goals. It will have its own Workout app, which will measure calories, time spent working up a sweat, and a variety of other activities. Finally, it will also gently nag or encourage you toward doing things more slowly than you planned. All of this will be shared with the HealthKit app.

Apple plans to offer a sports version of the watch, which comes with an alloy case that’s 60 percent stronger than the regular version.

The Apple Watch looks like it will become a serious contender in the fitness tracking market, but the steep pricing may make other fitness trackers more appealing to people.

From a regulatory perspective, the Apple Watch, while not being deemed a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be watched closely. The personal health data collected by individuals for their own use is outside the federal laws controlling the use of patient information.

This collection of data opens up a debate on privacy, and as this is health-related data, there will be extra scrutiny on how this data is collected and used, and more importantly, who has access to it.

However, the Feds are closely watching this fast-growing market. The FDA has already issued a list of mobile applications it is watching closely. The list includes software used by individuals to track and log personal data on exercise, food consumption and sleep patterns, and to make suggestions about health and wellness.

The major issue for privacy advocates will be how this personal data is used by the device makers and developers of apps. How marketing uses this data for profiling and targeting will become a place for regulators to identify safeguards.

Apple is also doing its bit and has made it clear to developers of health apps that it wants to protect privacy. This comes on the heels of the broadly covered celebrity hacking debacle that occurred a few weeks ago, opening up a debate about the collection and backup of data from mobile devices that synchronize with the cloud.

Last week, Apple updated its guidelines for health app developers, stating that apps working with HealthKit may not use the personal data gathered for advertising or data-mining uses other than for helping manage an individual’s health and fitness, or for medical research.

The guidelines also say that app developers cannot share data with third parties without the user’s consent.

It will be interesting to see how the FDA, as well as privacy bodies in the more stringent and regulated environments in Europe, deal with the brave new world that Apple is forging for us.

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Mar25

SXSW 2014: True Potential of Social Media in Healthcare Is Still Ahead of Us

sxsw logoOver a single-week period, SXSW Interactive hosts hundreds of presentations and panels. What was interesting to note this year, compared to the last few, is that a large percentage of healthcare discussions were now hosted on the stages of the two main convention centers, alongside all major celebrity keynotes.

Among many trends and ideas that were discussed, two concepts mentioned at the “What Happens When Tech and Healthcare Meet” panel were quite memorable. Although these are just mere single examples, each testified to a number of current trends in healthcare.

Concept: DermLink—a social network-based platform that allows patients to digitally share skin conditions with dermatologists and receive real-time responses.

Why this is important: This is especially relevant to those outside major metropolitan areas, where a wait to see the local dermatologist can exceed a few weeks. We’ve all heard success stories of doctors tapping into a broad pool of peers via Twitter and Facebook. But this platform is among the first controlled, social, care-specific environments that could potentially redefine the approach and expectations for doctor-patient interaction.

Bottom line: Regardless of the success of this platform, the mere fact that this platform is gaining momentum is an indicator that the true potential of social media in healthcare is still ahead of us.

Concept: Covered—a platform that helps applicants select the most appropriate health insurance by posing a series of qualifying questions in a standard, conversational language.

Why this is important: Although standard applications have been around for quite some time, we’re starting to see a shift in the way even insurance companies need to structure their communications. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a similar shift in practically every single aspect of marketing communication etiquette due to social media. A simple, well-timed response to a tweet can gain greater consumer loyalty than a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad.

Bottom line: Consumers no longer want to be talked at. They want to be spoken with. This is no longer breaking news…rather, a well-known fact. But at last it is finally beginning to change the insurance companies’ tone of interaction with potential applicants.

SXSW Series:

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Feb28

How Can Self-monitoring Best Support Behaviour Change?

3907691Some of today’s biggest public health challenges, such as obesity and  heart disease, can be linked to personal lifestyle decisions. Governments have tried tackling these issues with smoking bans and taxes on high-fat foods, with moderate success. However, personal health behaviour change is needed to make a significant, lasting impact. Can self-monitoring of health information be the answer?

Studies in diabetes, hypertension, medication compliance and weight loss have shown that patients who successfully self-monitor their activities and set personal goals enjoy improved health outcomes and better adherence to treatment 1-6. We now have an abundance of apps and wearable technology at our fingertips to comprehensively track numerous aspects of our lifestyle, analyse results and observe improvements over time. These self-monitoring tools can then be easily integrated into social health networks so that we can share experiences, track our progress against that of our peers, and give and receive advice on how to succeed.

It is estimated that there are more than 40,000 health and fitness apps available. But with this bewildering variety of choice, how can we know which ones will encourage lasting behaviour change?

Easy does it

The apps which make the process of data upload as effortless as possible for the end user are the ones most likely to catch on in the long-term. Devices that automatically record data and synchronise it with online analysis programmes in real time provide a seamless transition and are not hampered by general forgetfulness or lack of time.

Keep it simple

Health information needs to be engaging, and simple enough to be universally accessible. The average person is likely to find sorting the data that matters from what doesn’t time-consuming and intellectually daunting—in fact, many patients who have to actively monitor a condition like type II diabetes don’t always fully engage with self-monitoring for these very reasons.7

Be realistic

Establishing aspirational but realistic goals and providing reinforcing feedback can help bring self-monitoring systems to life and make them personally meaningful.  A recent study into self-monitoring to improve diabetes treatment found that the main concerns patients had with the system were disappointment with unmet expectations and difficulty fitting the programme into the demands of daily life. 1

Collaborate

Ideally, fitness or health tracking app developers should collaborate closely with specialist healthcare providers and device makers as well as social scientists who understand how to bring about behaviour change. Such cross-fertilisation could result in truly useful tools that track fitness alongside other health metrics, such as blood sugar levels or medication adherence.

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1.  Barlow J, et al. Self management approaches for people with chronic conditions: a review. Patient Education Counseling 2002;48:177–87.

2.  Benhamou PY. Improving diabetes management with electronic health records and patients’ health records. Diabetes Metab 2011;37(Suppl 4):S53–6.

3.  Dennis EA, et al. Weight gain prevention for college freshmen: comparing two social cognitive theory-based interventions with and without explicit self-regulation training. J Obes 2012;2012:803769.

4.  Parker R, et al. An electronic medication reminder, supported by a monitoring service, to improve medication compliance for elderly people living independently. J Telemed Telecare 2012;18:156–8.

5.  Ralston JD, et al. Patients’ experience with a diabetes support programme based on an interactive electronic medical record: qualitative study. BMJ 2004;328:1159.

6.  Wagner PJ, et al. Personal health records and hypertension control: a randomized trial. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2012;19:626–34.

7.  Choose Control Survey. Choosing to take control in type 2 diabetes. Available at: http://www.diabetes. org.uk/Documents/Reports/Choose_Control_report.pdf (Last accessed May 2013).

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Feb7

The Age of Wearable Health Technology Is Upon Us

5240666It used to be that technology that conforms to the human body and seamlessly integrates into your environment was stuff of science fiction movies. But if we’ve learned anything over the past 10 years, we know that science fiction is rapidly become science-fact. If you wanted to see what the near future held, all you had to do was tune in to the numerous news feeds covering the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 7–10. If there was one trend that seemed to be on every manufacturer’s mind, it was wearable health technology. In fact, CES expanded exhibitor floor space by 40% just for digital health and fitness exhibitors, many of whom were showcasing wearable personal devices.

CES is known as an event where electronics manufacturers like Samsung preview the mainstream consumer electronics that will drive the holiday shopping season. It’s the place where the industry goes to see everything from the latest web-connected refrigerators to the latest mobile chips. And the news from this past CES convention was no different. In the past, consumer electronics companies have been focused on portable, mobile technologies. With the mainstream adoption of smartphones and tablets, consumer electronics companies have continuously tried to innovate by going smaller. It was this evolution from compact, mobile personal technology to wearable technology that was on full display this year at CES. There were smart watches, smart jewelry, and smart glasses, and even mention of integrating technology into fabrics. There was a visible trend toward fashionable, smart, wearable health devices. The core technologies and functionality in many of the wearable gadgets on display were fairly similar, mostly informational apps and health and fitness monitoring, but it was the emphasis on style and technology as an accessory which spoke to how health technology will be more seamlessly integrated into everyone’s everyday life.

After years as a novelty, in 2013 wearable health tech began gaining wider adoption. From primetime TV commercials for the Samsung Galaxy Gear—a watch reminiscent of Dick Tracy’s clunky walkie-talkie wristwatch—to coverage of the debut of Google Glass on local news channels, wearable technology was noticeably all over news and pop culture. You couldn’t take a ride on the New York City subway without seeing at least 5 people with some kind of fitness tracker on their wrist or hip. And those who didn’t have a dedicated tracker likely had some kind of fitness or health-focused app installed on their smartphone. In fact, wearable tech adoption grew from 3% in 2012 to 13% 2013, and that growth has been fueled by growing consumer interest in fitness and personal health monitoring and tracking. As consumers have increasingly begun to take control of their own health, adoption of wearable devices to help them do so has grown. Gartner predicts that the fitness and personal health monitoring trend will grow to a $1.6-billion industry in 2014 and to $5 billion by 2016. As we saw at CES, consumer electronics manufacturers are doing their part to give the trend momentum by making the wearable devices easy to use, fashionable, and less pricey, hoping to appeal to a much wider consumer base. And it’s not just the consumers who will see the benefits of devices that are easier to have and use. New opportunities will continue to arise for healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies to play a direct role in wellness and health behaviors through these wearables. As open software standards become more prevalent across devices, it’ll be easier for healthcare marketers to customize programming to suit clients’ needs and integrate wearables into a more personalized patient experience. Here at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, we’ve already begun to explore how this new channel for engagement can be used toward patient education and adherence. Next Christmas, don’t be surprised if your grandparents or teens ask Santa for a fashionable wearable health device.

What about you? Do you currently own a wearable personal health or fitness device? How has this affected how you manage your and your family’s health?

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May14

Is There Good Karma in Advertising?

buddhaSo much of what we do throughout our careers is interesting…but is it inspiring? Well, we found out recently when the knowledge and information we’ve been exposed to through client work helped me and my wife conceive of and create something entirely new and unexpected. Using the skills we’ve honed while working at ad agencies, my wife and I recently came up with the idea for an iPhone app that aims to improve the world by promoting small changes in daily actions. Basically, we asked the question: what can we do using our advertising knowledge to help make the world a better place? That was the question. “Karmasation” was the answer.

Karmasation, the app we’ve created, is what we somewhat jokingly call an anti-social network. People can post their actions, thoughts, and experiences anonymously and get feedback about whether they deserve good or bad karma. Because users maintain anonymity within Karmasation, they can post honestly. They aren’t speaking to people who know them through various social interactions (as they would on Facebook and Twitter), they’re just speaking to a community of people. Human to human.

The tie-in to social networks, though, comes into play with the idea of gamification, a subject about which we’ve frequently engaged our respective clients. As users participate in Karmasation, they accrue a Karma Profile. Users can simply compete against themselves, or they can share their profiles, posts, and results with Facebook and Twitter to create somewhat of a competition to see who can earn the best karma.

So what type of advertising knowledge were we able to apply while creating the app? And how did that learning continue with Karmasation?
1) The Devil is in the Digital Design. As we’ve worked on different digital platforms for our clients, we’ve learned a bit about clean design and user interaction. Combining that knowledge with being iPhone users ourselves, we had an idea of what would work within the iPhone platform. Are we still learning? Of course! But through our work on our app, we’ve gained a broader understanding of user interaction. We now have a better handle on how users might prefer digital platforms to react and function—not just from an art or copy perspective—but from an overall experience.

2) Bravo for Beta Testing. Again, with the digital platforms we’ve worked on comes testing. The first time my wife worked on a digital presentation, her project manager told her to try and “break it.” And “break it” we did, because before putting an app out there you want to make sure you’ve covered every scenario—not just how you’d use it but also how anyone else might. Because our app has more possible combinations of actions than other projects we’ve worked on, we’ve learned the importance of testing in a systematic way with a greater attention to detail. We also found that as we progressed through the rounds of beta testing, we learned ways to better communicate issues we were finding with our developers. Clear communication between team members who understand different aspects of a project is crucial to getting any problems fixed.

3) The Process of Promotion. The obvious one since we’re in advertising. But this time, we are both the agency and the client. Deciding on your own strategy can sometimes be difficult, and as a result, we now have an added sense of respect for our clients. We continue to work daily to find ways to better promote our app so that more people can know, use and enjoy it.

As we continue with Karmasation and our jobs in advertising, we’ve learned from each experience and have already seen how we can apply our learnings from one circumstance to the other. Like karma, what comes around goes around. And in this case, we’d call it good karma!

 

 

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