For the last two years I’ve had the opportunity to attend and speak at the uniquely patient- and design-centered health conference, Medicine X. As any attendee will testify, Medicine X is an intense experience infused with heart-wrenching patient stories, presentations on innovative technologies and design processes, and lots of opportunities to informally chat with the interdisciplinary group of attendees. This year I was grateful to return to the conference with my team at Open mHealth; our co-founder Ida Sim announced a new product called Linq, which I’ll describe below in more detail, and I also had the pleasure of co-facilitating a Patient Engagement Design workshop that was led by Doctors Larry Chu (the conference organizer) and Kyra Bobinet.
Some of the Open mHealth team at Medicine X: Danny, David, Ida, Katie, and Anna
During the post-Medicine X contemplation and recovery period that happens each year, a few themes coalesce and rise up in my mind. Last year, it was the concept of patient timelines and storytelling; lots of people were talking about timelines as a way to help better understand and tell patient stories (which was exciting for me, given my personal interest in patient timelines). People were also talking last year about artificial intelligence and automation; Vinod Khosla spoke in the closing keynote about the potential of computers to more accurately diagnose patients and potentially replace doctors.
This year, I heard over and over about the importance of collaboration, teamwork and empathy – especially between doctors and patients. I was very much looking forward to (and not disappointed by) Daniel Seigel’s talk on the concept of ‘Integration’, which he described as the ‘linkage of differentiated parts. He spoke about how when doctors are attuned to, empathetic toward, and connected with their patients in an authentic human way, it can actually help form physical connections in patients’ brains and improve health outcomes.
My fellow e-patient Carly Medosch spoke on a panel comprised of patients who track, and she said none of her doctors have been interested in using the information she’s been tracking related to her condition. Clearly this is a breakdown in doctor-patient collaboration, and it’s something I’ve experienced myself; it’s an issue that many of us talk about and would love to fix!
I also sat at a table one night with Adam Dole of Better, a startup incubated at Mayo that’s trying to put human relationships back into the center of our healthcare experience via their ‘personal health assistants.’ He spoke passionately about the need to bring a human connection back to health care, using whatever technical resources best accomplish that goal. Overall, I felt that the audience and the speakers were veering away from the model of total health care automation that Khosla championed last year, instead embracing a vision of tech-enabled human-to-human connection.
For Open mHealth, this was an exciting trend to witness because it’s very much inline with our stance on health tracking – that it’s better done as a team. We’ve been hard at work on Linq, a new way for patients and their care team to collaborate on health tracking. With Linq, patients and clinicians work together to decide what health tracking measures the patient will track. Patients can then track certain aspects of their health using the app or device of their choice, and the information is brought together in one place where it’s viewable by both patients and their care team.
We have a few goals in this effort: 1) give clinicians patients’ health tracking data that’s formatted and organized in such a way that it gives them maximum clinical value and insight, 2) give patients confidence that what they’re tracking will be insightful and usable for both them and their clinicians, 3) help prevent patient ‘tracking fatigue’ by encouraging a limited scope and time period of tracking, and 4) increase the feeling of partnership and connection that we know is so important and motivating to both patients and clinicians.
Everything that makes Linq work is possible because of the work Open mHealth has been doing to integrate digital health data and make it more clinically meaningful. If you’re technology-minded, you can learn more about our open source data schemas and open API.
As a designer and patient, I’m very excited to be working on this new collaborative approach to health tracking. If you’re excited too, be sure to sign up for our e-mail updates; we’re also looking for patients and clinicians to help shape the direction of Linq and help us make sure we’re on the right track. Please let us know here if you’re interested in getting involved.
Katie McCurdy is Lead Designer for Open mHealth, and she’s also a longtime autoimmune patient. She welcomes your thoughts – you can reach her at email@example.com, on twitter at @katiemccurdy, or reach out to us at @openmhealth