Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Audacious Goals at Health 2.0: rounded tabs, perfect shading

What is Health 2.0?

After spending 14 hours at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco today, the pessimistic answer is that Health 2.0 is rounded corners and perfect shading. Many of the web technologies were accessed through a browser, so I started to get browser navigation fatigue.

Health 2.0, ultimately, is more audacious. My favorite proposition was by a Kaiser manager brainstorming a portable device that would assist patients with maintaining healthy behaviors. The use case described was a cross between a mood ring and LiveStrong bracelet. As described, such wristband would be deployed to a clinically obese patient, providing biofeedback and behavioral support. In this blog post I go a couple more steps to describe some of the possibilities that this could entail.

Device activation could occur by the wearer switching it on, or by an automatic trigger based on a biological indicator of increased risk of harmful behavior. If I start craving candy, for example, I could first switch on the device on my double-tapping or twisting the bracelet. Alternatively, a red LED on the wristband could take a glucose reading before I was conscious of wanting sugar.

In the scenario of automatic activation based on biological monitoring, the wristband could simply change colors to bring the wearer’s attention to the existence of a risk factor. Additionally, the device could provide various forms of explicit support. First, it could provide the opportunity for encouraging tweets from a community of peers in a weight loss program. Second, a brief message could be drawn from a database of tailored suggestions. Third, the message could come from a professional counselor or physician, likely segueing into a more traditional means of doctor-patient communication.

As an alternative, or in conjunction with these responses from the device, an opportunity would exist for the wearer to take action in response to the messaging from the device. A symbolic action to “take control” of the situation would be simply switching the device from red to green, an outward sign of the patient’s commitment and coping skill. Monitoring could be tied to whether or not such an action occurred; if the device was not acted upon, cell phone and other email alerts could be triggered to the patient and other stakeholders.

Such a device could have broad use for all manner of behavioral problems, not just behavioral problems tied to a current medical problem. Robust federal incentives for employer-based wellness programs, including meaningful incentives to participating individuals, could make these high tech mood rings a popular engagement tool for EAP and wellness programs.

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