Consumer Engagement – Respect the Horse

I went to the Duke Wireless Health Conference (See #dukewhc for the tweet thread) in North Carolina this week invited by my friend Dr. Gopal Chopra of Ping MD fame. How to engage consumers more in their health care? As a patient, I bristled at the thought that I wasn’t  engaged in my care. They don’t know me? I understand that I’m not representative of all consumers – no one is. We are all health care consumers, we are all on a health journey. There is much variation in those journeys. I also understand that other members of my health team – my primary care doc, my wife, my kids, my mother have opinions or perspectives about how engaged I am in my healthcare. I gained weight for several years. They suggested I lose weight. It wasn’t until this past year that I engaged in losing weight and lost 35 pounds. Two points: First I’m always on my health journey. The journey just happens. Second, my ability to focus on various aspects of that journey and engage in trying to change that journey ebbs and flows. Sometimes I focus on some of the seriously annoying aspects of MS: vision, mobility, balance. Sometimes, I need a rest from it all. can’t focus at all. I appreciate being accepted by my health team as I am. I appreciate that they care about me and listen to me actively. I appreciate their support when I’m ready to tackle a particular challenge, like weight loss. Ah, there it is – a team present when ready. Hold that thought.

We have a primal conundrum – the tension between population health and individual health. The community, the industry wants the population healthier. Makes sense: it’s the right thing, it costs the community less overall, and it feeds the economy. The tension comes when individuals feel that the community knows best – how do we get the horse to drink? Do we respect the horse? How do we align these forces? Treatments, products and tools are designed for populations (its a matter of scale), but used by individuals. My takeaways from the conference are: bring products and tools to where people are (Screening kiosks in Walmarts by SoloHealth); reconnect families to reunite health teams (Family Health Networks); allow more time for caring providers to engage with their patients; engagement is not about technology – technology serves the engagement and the relationships.

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