Meeting Challenges at Forbes Healthcare Summit

One of the true joys in spending your career working in healthcare or health design is that you are consistently reminded just how courageous and motivated people can be when they are mission driven to overcome great challenges. Disease incidence, efficacy rates and new science breakthroughs in healthcare can be expressed and studied via statistics – but the experience of battling cancer, caring for a sick child, enduring extensive surgeries – these are remarkably human experiences that fuel the drive and mission underpinning change within our health system.

Keating at the Forbes Health Summit 2015

Last week’s Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York City did a thoughtful and balanced job of keeping this truth front and center. It was inspiring to be in a room with many smart, passionate people focused on improving healthcare for patients. Matthew Herper and the team at Forbes did a remarkable job of assembling senior leaders from health systems (Geisinger Health, North Shore – LIJ Health System and Mayo Clinic to name a few), pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Express Scripts, Allergan, Pfizer, etc.), biotech companies and patient advocates to talk about the key agents influencing health now and into the future.

The group focused on how anticipatory medicine, consumer demands and patient engagement are setting healthcare on a bold new path. I plan to write on these topics in future posts over the months ahead that connect back to our work at CannonDesign. I’m also hopeful to acquire some of the presentations to share with our teams for information and insight.

At the moment though, and since I left the Forbes event, I’ve been inspired as much as educated. Embedded in the smart conversations were very human stories. Two that stood out were Steve Keating’s battle with brain cancer and Rachel Kalmar’s work with wearables. Below are brief glimpses into each person and their story.

Fighting Brain Tumors with Social Media and Data

A unique perspective and engaging presentation during the event came from Steve Keating. He took the stage and talked openly about how he’d learned he had a slight abnormality in his brain in 2007 that he then tracked and monitored until it ultimately became a baseball-sized tumor that needed to be removed. He dove deep into how he’d used social media to connect with others who had or were battling brain tumors and learn more about treatment options. Even after his surgery, Keating has continued to be an advocate for patient access to information and the empowerment of patients in the health experience.

On my plane ride home to Chicago, I read more about Keating and his fight,including this MIT article from earlier this year. A few facts that reinforced his presentation really stand out:

  • Keating has always been interested in actively understanding his health. His first brain scan in 2007 happened came about to his sheer curiosity. Rather than just receive summary results, Keating wanted the scan’s raw data which led to the identification of the brain abnormality.
  • The raw data from the original scan further fueled Keating’s curiosity in his own health. Years later as an MIT graduate student, Keating continued to engage his doctors on treatment options. Even during the 10-hour surgery to remove the brain tumor, Keating was sedated but kept awake so he could converse with doctors and ensure they were not damaging the brain’s language center. The entire surgery was captured on video, per Keating’s request.
  • Now, Keating has become a powerful advocate for open health data. He believes the access to his personal data and the curiosity it sparked ultimately saved his life – and he’d like to see others have the same chance.

While designers can’t overtly grant access to personal health data, Keating’s presentation left me thinking about new ideas and ways we might encourage providers to engage patients in the design of health spaces. We’ve seen success with this for organizations like ProHealth and other providers. If access to data can help patients, engagement in the creation of the spaces where health care is delivered is another key component.

Wearables featured at Forbes Health Summit

Wearables from Head to Toe

Another fascinating story shared at Forbes Health Summit was Rachel Kalmar’s efforts to help wearable health technology and the data it generates be more meaningful. Kalmar has worn between one and 38 devices each day for the past three years. She’s done this to see how the technologies compare, what people can and should learn from them and what the data looks like.

The biggest thing I learned,” Kalmar said during her presentation. “Is how difficult it is to get access to all this data.

Through her presentation, Kalmar expressed that she believes we’re in the early days of understanding how we can leverage wearable health tech. She sees challenges related to the lack of a common infrastructure, battery life issues, and the lack of common language across the different platforms. Robert Glatter provided a thorough recap with video excerpts of Kalmar’s presentation for Forbes.

The group at the Forbes event was in agreement on Kalmar’s thought that we’re in the early days with wearables. There was a sense that we are definitely moving from precision medicine to anticipatory medicine and that wearables have a robust role to contribute in that future.

It’s been a week since I left NYC after the Forbes event and I already look forward to 2016. No doubt, the ideas and inspiration I gained at the event will impact my work with CannonDesign and the trajectory of our practice in the year ahead.

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