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Wow!  What an incredible event MadPow’s Healthcare Experience Design Conference in Boston turned out to be.  I was there to present on the concept of Personal Healthcare Strategists.  To VizThink my presentation looked like this.

For those of you who know me, this idea of designing a better end to end patient experience rich with cross touch point collaboration and more open dialogue has been a real personal passion of mine. When it comes to serving our clients, I have to be careful not to think too big and go too far outside of the box that is our healthcare system today.  But at the conference we went as far outside that box as we all possibly could.  Our goal?  Change the conversation around healthcare as a way to improve the patient experience, create a culture of healthier people, and ultimately – lower the cost of healthcare.

So – who’s breaking the rules?  Well… based on what our speakers had to say, just about everyone is finding some rule to break.  Whether it is a health insurance company looking for new ways to engage patients in healthy behaviors or a pharmaceutical company trying to understand what it is like to be a teenager going through the transition of taking ownership of their health (and managing a life-threatening disease), everyone who spoke was experimenting with ways to get get beyond technology for technology’s sake and instead get to a place where the drivers are positive outcomes, emotion and trust, and technology is merely the enabler.

One of the most provocative presentations I was able to attend was given by Matt Diamanti from the Mayo Clinic. Titled, “People are the Product”, Matt actually opened with the existential question, “Who Am I”?  Now – you are probably wondering, what does the quest for the authentic self have to do with patient experience?  Matt’s response: EVERYTHING!

Because our digital world has simply become too routine of a component of our daily lives.  Instead of understanding our problems in terms of the people actually living through them, we opt for a quick fix of digital plug ins… more data, more apps, more noise.  In “People are the Product”, Matt suggests that if we start with the premise that we are all, at our core, emotional beings living in analogue 3-D and that we want to connect to other emotional beings live and in person, we might come to realize that at least part of our current health crisis is because of too much data and not enough human connection (as opposed to the other way around).  He further suggests that to get back to a truly healthy physical and emotional state of wellbeing, we need to quiet the noise, unplug from the mother ship and instead, emotionally plug into those around us… other people working through the same challenges. In some ways, this may sound like nothing new.  But my response?  FAR OUT!  Because going analogue may be just about as provocative and new as it gets in this current state of avatar doctors and do-it-yourself health management.

Sure – an implementable solution has to live somewhere in between these two extremes, but as I heard from many of our speakers, it is only if we can get the conversation out to these far ends of what can be imagined that we can get to a middle ground where the solution is implementable, adoptable, measurable and ultimately successful for all of us who use the system. A system that blames and isolates may get us better prices – but not better health.  Similarly, a system that completely forgives may get us better “managed” patients – but not better sustainability and, I would argue, even poorer health.

In the end, the Healthcare Experience Design Conference wasn’t about presenting answers, it was about asking questions and starting dialogues.  It was about challenging the notion that we are even solving for the right problems in the first place.