This was my first year attending Stanford’s MedicineX. After years of following the conference, it was great to take part as one of this year’s ePatients. MedX is one of the most patient-centric medical conferences around and puts a strong emphasis on making the patient experience a central part of discussions about health care reform. It was an inspiring few days, with many like-minded participants in attendance. I left there energized and excited by the talks. Here are some of my highlights:
IDEO Design Challenge
Before the conference officially kicked off, I was one of five ePatient participating in this daylong design challenge. The session was led by IDEO’s Dennis Boyle, who leads the agency’s Health and Wellness practice. The other ~30 participants were from a variety of backgrounds in health care, ranging from doctors to NGO leaders, academic researchers to policy makers.
We were split into 5 teams, each with its own ePatient. My group asked lots of questions about my daily diabetes habits, specified a problem they were looking to address, created the outlines of a solution, then made a presentation video.
We were advised to define the problem we were looking to solve with a “How Might We…” statement. Building on our discussions throughout the morning, our group asked how might we use data to help humanize communication between patients and doctors during clinic visits. This is a problem I highlighted based on my own experience. Patients get on average 7-12 minutes with their doctor every 3-4 months. We wanted to design an approach that makes better use of this limited time, one that allows both patient and doctor to feel that their biggest concerns are being addressed. We named the product Ovrlap and produced a demo video in under an hour.
I’m always amazed when diabetes patients get together and start talking about the specifics of their condition. Type-1 diabetics including Chris Snider, Kim Vlasnik and Dana Lewis were all in attendance. On the second day, Chris, Kim and I each pulled out our CGMs and realized that all our blood sugars were running about 50 mg/dL higher than normal, something we all attributed it to the excitement around the conference. I personally find these types of shared diabetes reactions fascinating.
I made a 5 minute presentation at the start of a panel discussion on “Patients with Chronic Illness: The New Self-Tracker?” and showed the progress of my work on Databetes. The panel was led by Ernesto Ramirez of Quantified Self and also featured fellow patients Britt Johnson and Sara Riggare.
Ernesto focused on the idea that the panel was split between patients like me, who are very much in support of self-tracking, and patients like Britt, who are not. Each patients talked about wanting to feel better and solve the problems inherent in having a chronic condition. I felt that our discussion highlighted the similarities in thinking as patients. It showed that self-tracking’s value really rests on the specifics of managing each different condition, not on any inherent potential value of self-tracking itself. For me, the self-tracking allows me to spot trends in my readings and make specific changes in my disease management. For Britt, it seems to highlight factors beyond her control and leaves her more frustrated. In this way, both of our approaches to self-tracking seem logical.
E-nabling the Future
One of my favorite presentations of the conference was by Jon Schull. He is a, “biological psychologist, inventor, entrepreneur, and human-computer interaction researcher, Jon Schull is the creator of e-NABLE, an online community that designs, customizes and fabricates affordable 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children and adults with missing fingers and hands.” Joining him on stage was Eva. She has received for free one of the crowdsourced, 3D-printed hands that the group makes possible. It was truly amazing to see how this global community’s work can help brighten up her life.
Flying out of San Francisco, I was certainly glad I participated in MedX. So much of the time I spend at conferences is focused on diabetes care. It was interesting for me to see issues that run through the entire medical community, as well as meet the patients doing their best to manage a range of conditions.
It seems like patient-centric design thinking is gaining traction and becoming more widespread. Many of the presentations by hospitals doing innovative work were from leading institutions in the U.S. Hopefully the success they are having will serve as an example to other facilities around the country looking to adjust their existing treatment methods and do more to both improve patient engagement and health outcomes.