5 Things We Discovered at Last Week’s Connected Health Symposium

A panel from Boston Children’s Hospital presents, including Carla Small, Karen Sakakeeny, Alexandra Pellitier and Israel Green-Hopkins. Photo by Aine Cryts.

A panel from Boston Children’s Hospital presents, including Carla Small, Karen Sakakeeny, Alexandra Pelletier and Israel Green-Hopkins. Photo by Aine Cryts.

About 1,200 healthcare visionaries, clinical experts, patient advocates and researchers descended on the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston for the Connected Health Symposium on October 23 and 24, 2014. The two-day conference, which is organized by the Center for Connected Health, is part of Massachusetts Connected Health Week 2014.

We heard about all sorts of innovations, healthcare-based ideas and theories for improvement during the two-day event. Here are five of the most impressive things we learned:

1. Nurses are our hidden healthcare innovation weapon. Karen Sakakeeny, a clinical nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital, helped develop a mylar-lined re-warming head wrap for infants to wear immediately after open heart surgery. The prototype she developed is now in a phase one clinical trial. Sakakeeny spoke about her innovation at the symposium, explaining that she helped develop this product after learning that 60% of an infant’s body heat is lost through their head. The head wrap includes Velcro tabs that can be adjusted by the clinical care team as necessary.

“Nurses are tremendous innovators,” said Naomi Fried, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Nurses call them ‘work arounds.’”

2. Technology could be the key to personal connection. “This era enables us to use more data and objects and artificial intelligence as part of what is still an existential search for identity and community,” said Jen Hyatt, CEO and founder of Big White Wall, a leading digital mental health and wellbeing service based out of London, England.

One example is an autistic boy who befriended Siri – and how that relationship has transformed his life. Today, 13-year-old Gus can have ongoing conversations about the weather with Siri, Apple’s speech recognition technology. Having learned these skills, Gus can now have more meaningful conversations with his mother, too.

3. Control & social pressure lead to (mHealth) success. With access to health information – such as the number of hours we slept or our blood pressure or weight – we can feel more in control of our lives, said Philippe Schwartz, president of Withings, a consumer electronics company located in France. When you’re using a device to capture health information over the course of a year, you’ll be able to see the overall success of your diet and exercise.

Social pressure is an entirely different dynamic that’s equally as powerful. It happens when you share your results with other people. Schwartz said that he shares his weighing scale, which feeds data to the Internet and his smartphone, with his wife. That means his wife can determine if he ate too much for dinner last night, based on his weight this morning. Just knowing this could mean he’ll eat a lighter dinner tonight.

4. Technology can also make worried parents more comfortable. MyPassport is an iPad-based application developed for patients’ parents to help them learn about their child’s care plan and provides real-time access to labs. This application, which also provides photos of the entire care team, was developed by the Boston Children’s Hospital Innovation Acceleration Team.

Fried says that the MyPassport app is “wildly successful,” “the ‘rocket ship’ patients were waiting for.”

5. Habit-forming app designs are trending.“Habit-forming technologies should appreciate with use. They should get better. They should get more valuable the more they’re used because of this principle of ‘stored value,” said Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.” A few examples: When iTunes becomes your “one and only music library,” it’s more valuable. The more personal finance information you give to Mint.com or the more “pins” you put on Pinterest, the better site experience you’ll have.

Trying to incite these technology habits can seem irresponsible, but Eyal is passionate about using the psychology of habit design for good. He encourages the healthcare industry to solve one of the world’s biggest problems: to help people live happier, healthier, richer, more connected lives.

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Nir Eyal talks habit-forming technology.

Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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