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More health IT comedy means the public is taking notice

I often share jokes and humorous videos here, sometimes because a product is worthy of ridicule, but also to illustrate how some health IT is going mainstream. I’m going to do it again today because two things happened in the last week that I had not seen before.

First, though Stephen Colbert has made fun of digital health and fitness products before, last week he took it upon himself to do so on consecutive nights.

On Sept. 8, he took down the forthcoming Pavlok fitness bracelet, a product that sends an electrical jolt to the wearer’s arm as a reminder to exercise. It also debits the user’s bank account and posts an embarrassing message on Facebook. No, really. “When you’re in a dark place, alone at home, out of shape and too tired, overweight or depressed to work out, it’s probably because you weren’t getting enough public humiliation,” Colbert said.

 

A night later, Colbert, like the rest of the world, was talking about the Apple Watch. After cheering wildly about the announcement, Colbert asked, “What does it do?” He then showed a picture of himself from high school and said it was finally cool to wear a calculator watch.

 

Then, on Friday, no less than America’s Finest News Source, The Onion, got into the act with its “American Voices” feature, in which common people (actually, the same five or six headshots recycled for years with different names and occupations) give their fake opinions on a newsworthy topic. That day, the subject was, “Patients Making Record Number Of Telehealth ‘E-Visits’ With Doctors,” with a reference to an actual Deloitte study on that very topic.

As one “commenter” said, “Until doctors can email me painkillers, I don’t see the point.”

 

September 16, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Colbert pokes fun at Fitbit and other digital trackers

“We live in a golden era of digital toys,” noted comedian Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report” last Monday.

Indeed, some of the digital health and fitness products out there are rather ridiculous, even the popular ones, and we’re hearing just that at some actual health IT events. At last month’s WTN Media Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison, Wis., Adam Pellegrini, vice president of digital health at Walgreens, poked fun at programs that reward people for allegedly exercising. “You could put a pedometer on your dog and get 10,000 steps while watching TV,” Pellegrini joked.

Colbert, who certainly was not present at that Madison meeting, got the same idea about the Fitbit activity tracker. “Last week, I wanted to run a marathon, so I strapped this bad boy to a paint shaker for about 20 minutes,” he said.

Colbert then addressed the Vessyl digital cup, which records data on the beverages each user consumes. “That level of information was previously available only on the can you just poured it out of,” he said. He then pointed out that Vessyl only tracks half of the hydration equation, the input, so he announced the pre-release of his own “product,” Toylyt.

Watch the clip below.

 

 

July 20, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Counting the health IT accelerators

Have you noticed all the digital health “accelerators” and “incubators” out there? I count the following, in alphabetical order:

In addition, the USC Center for Body Computing has announced plans for its own incubator/accelerator in Los Angeles, but we continue to await details.

That’s a lot. Is it too many? We have seen plenty of failures in digital health entrepreneurship over the years, in no small part because too many companies don’t understand the unique economics of healthcare, particularly in the U.S. With the possible exception of fitness products, direct-to-consumer simply does not work in healthcare because most of the expenses are paid for by third parties. (I’d argue that wellness and fitness are distinct from traditional healthcare anyway because healthcare really does focus on sick care.)

At least one report from the California HealthCare Foundation backs up my belief that the DTC focus is a recipe for failure, one reason why health accelerators probably have it harder than their counterparts in other industries.

June 4, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Health 2.0 by Twitter

Here’s my version of Short Attention Span Theater (which is pretty much what Twitter is anyway), of the recently concluded Health 2.0 Fall Conference, as I reported via Twitter. Note the juxtaposition between observation, commentary and snark.

Preconference sessions on Sunday: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118085752008622080″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118087344766193664″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118087651160109056″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118179141274189825″]

Monday plenary sessions: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118362364071518208″] This got someone from HealthTap to misinterpret what I had said: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/HealthTap/status/118365108513673216″] To which I replied: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118365613512073216″] (For the record, @CHCF is not the correct handle for the California HealthCare Foundation. It’s @CHCFnews.)

I also had an important question for HealthTap, one that so far has gone unanswered. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118363924281303040″]

I retweeted/commented on many others’ tweets, too. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118366901800935424″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/pjmachado/status/118366688705122304″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/pjmachado/status/118384207276949504″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ekivemark/status/118389410910846977″]

I found quite a bit of news and lack of news being announced on stage. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118383509172793344″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118384168316059649″]

And don’t take kindly to vagueness about the word “solution.” [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118390936257560576″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118391125554892800″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/grapealope/status/118391490748743680″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118393697674067968″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/grapealope/status/118394480213766144″] (I get the sense @grapealope is among the many Silicon Valley cheerleaders who came not to a conference but a pep rally. I bet the Kool-Aid tasted great.)

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118402107702394880″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/rdesain/status/118486784484192256″]

Then came the lamest presentation of them all, in a plenary session no less, a demo of an overly cutesy “life game” called Mindbloom. The presentation was accompanied by distracting sound effects of birds chirping the entire time, and the game itself featured a guide character called the “enlightening bug.” My impression? [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118492715196497920″]

Others weren’t so harsh, but at least had questions about the purpose and appeal. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/pjmachado/status/118492523277729793″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118492973959888896″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/pjmachado/status/118493232614215680″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118493422821715968″]

I later asked fellow realist John Moore of Chilmark Research this question: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118498456888279040″]

At least I wasn’t the only one worn out by having to separate the wheat from the chaff. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/familyhealthguy/status/118479710656278529″]

I did tone down my rhetoric a bit on Tuesday, though. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118569075063529472″]

OK, maybe only a bit, especially after Microsoft’s Mike Raymer said, “It was good to have two companies create a marketplace,” in reference to Microsoft’s HealthVault and the soon-to-be-departed Google Health. [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118799888640258048″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118800555463290880″]

I highlighted what I saw as good points: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/2healthguru/status/118706082238562305″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118706473646817281″]

And I asked a question that I’d love to hear an answer to: [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nversel/status/118801288849920002″]

I would be less likely to tune out certain sessions if there were more related to healthcare and less to personal fitness and wellness. Of course, others have different viewpoints, which is why it might make more sense to separate the two into different conferences or at least different tracks.

September 30, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Journal to examine gaming in health

You know a topic has arrived in healthcare or medicine when there’s a peer-reviewed journal for it. Now officially here is the field of gaming as a tool for healthcare, legitimized by the presence of a new journal, Games for Health, from well-known publisher Mary Ann Liebert Inc.

The bimonthly journal launched in July, and the first issue is due out this fall. According to Liebert’s press release: “Games are rapidly becoming an important tool for improving health behaviors ranging from healthy lifestyle habits and behavior modification to self-management of illnesses and chronic conditions to motivating and supporting physical activity. Commonly used applications include mobile phone-delivered games that track daily exercise and ‘exergames’ that require physical exertion in order to play (e.g., on platforms such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation Move, and Xbox Kinect). Games are also increasingly used to train healthcare professionals in methods for diagnosis, medical procedures, patient monitoring, as well as for responding to epidemics and natural disasters. ”

This is a tricky industry segment. If it’s something patients have at home such as a Wii or Xbox, they’ll use it. If it requires people to purchase new equipment or software, they may not, since the direct-to-consumer market for interactive healthcare technologies remains a tough sell beyond the hardcore fitness fanatics. If we’re talking about training clinicians, then we might be on to something.

I can’t wait to see how this develops.

August 23, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.