Recap: DesignMeets… Digital Health & Well-being

We consume the news, book flights, hire drivers, order food, and even pay our taxes digitally. So why can’t we manage our health digitally too?

Beyond gaining access to our quantified-self via step counters and fitness trackers, why can’t we manage annual check-ups, talk to our health care providers, review lab results, and even gather preventative tips digitally? While good solutions are beginning to emerge, the question remains: How can we manage the whole self — not only our physical but also our mental well-being — via digital applications and how can we make the good solutions stick?

We need to move beyond our quantified-self to an aware-self — insights not just information — to take trackable data and turn that into a total awareness of ourselves including mental well-being, mindfulness, feelings and attitudes.

That’s what a group of nine speakers discussed at MaRS during Pivot Design Group’s “DesignMeets… Digital Health and Well-being” on June 22.

“With so much trackable data available to us, how do we translate the quantified-self into something we can understand?” Ian Chalmers, Pivot Design Group’s founder and Creative Director posed that question to the audience as he got the evening started (pictured below left).

Then moderator Dr. Jesse Slade Shantz, a sports and orthopaedic surgeon, actively working on his own digital solutions for providers, introduced the first speaker…

Nivit Kochlar, representing Optimity an employee wellness company, mused over the four ways his organization helps users build healthy habits, which includes motivational tactics and encouraging users to be accountable by sharing their progress.

Estelle Morrison, the Vice-President of Clinical and Wellness Services of LifeWorks, brought up the difficulty in getting users to access Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs.  “How do we get you to access what you need?” she asked. Since we’re addicted to our smartphones, she explained how LifeWorks developed a health promotion app that engages users in specific wellness activities at specific points during the day.

Collage HR’s Michael Silia spoke about how his company puts users first too and discussed how his team solves design problems through an iterative, multi-step process to create health and wellness solutions for employees.

Kate Sellen also touched on the importance of design thinking in the health and wellness space. As the director of the Masters in Design for Health at OCAD University, she shared a few of the innovative projects that emerged from her program.

While mingling with attendees after the presentations, she shed light on the pan-Canadian working group that’s creating an overdose response toolkit for St. Michael’s Hospital. She said OCADU is involved on multiple levels to ensure it’s a fully integrated design solution.

In another clinical setting, Brendan Kwolek, Director of Information Management and Technology at Women’s College Hospital, unpacked the process of implementing an online patient portal called myHealthRecord a name he said a patient came up with.

“It’s so important at this point to take that patient perspective into your design. It’s not just about results anymore. I can get a haircut and check myself in and book an appointment online. Yet how many patient portals allow patients to do exactly the same?” he questioned.

Later on in the evening, he discussed with us some of the challenges with patient portals in Ontario. The main pain point, he said, is that they exist in a silo — now, it’s time to integrate them.

While programs such as these might work in the hospital setting, Nikolai Bratkovski isn’t convinced the influx of healthcare-related apps and programs have much benefit for consumers in their current iterations.

“There is so much happening in healthcare, but I find 99 percent of it is noise and it’s just people building pretty things that aren’t being used,” he said, speaking off the cuff prior to his presentation about Opencare, the healthcare concierge company he founded.

He said most people aren’t motivated to make changes when it comes to their health, and they need incentives to actually do so.

Fanny Sie, Senior Manager of Commercial Development at LifeLabs Inc., is on the consumer side of things too and she said design plays an important role in enabling companies to point consumers in the right direction within the crowded healthcare space. Companies who understand their consumers tend to stand out.

Dylan Horvath creates wearables and said he’s always thinking, “How would someone ideally like to interact with these products?” When designing products for different users, such as miners, Horvath realized, “sometimes the best interaction is no interaction at all.”


Moving beyond HealthCare conversations towards Design Thinking solutions

After reflecting on the DesignMeets presentations, we argue that now is the time for all stakeholders from the healthcare system to come together in order to better connect the siloed system. With the creation of better, more patient-centered digital dissemination tools we not only help healthcare providers receive the most up-to-date research, evidence-based practices, care pathways, and interventions we but also equip recipients of care with more effective tools towards prevention, identification, management, and ultimately better engagements of patients in their own health management.

By aiming for effortless and effective collection and delivery of actionable insights — not just static information — we can help complete the circle of care. It’s about connecting those providing care with patients and families working to prevent chronic or acute conditions.

There is no point waiting for the system to change. Instead we can influence the change by taking charge of the things we can control.

What if we as designers started working towards an Internet of Me, instead of the trendy digital concept of the Internet of Things? An IoME would represent the collision of thoughtful, effective and efficient digital interactions in healthcare — spurring us forward through creation and action into the future of digital health and wellness.