2013: a year of healthcare experience design

It’s the first day of 2014 here in Vermont, ushered in with bitterly cold temps and the crusty remains of two ice storms coating the ground in a thick shellack. A good time to reflect on the past year, to consider what impact I’m making on the world around me, and to think about ways I can keep improving.

What does ‘impact’ mean to me? I have to ask myself from time to time. As a patient and user experience designer, I want to use my design skills to help improve the healthcare experience for other patients. I want to help bring people together who are interested in changing healthcare. I want to help bring the patient voice into the healthcare discussion.

Did I make any progress on these goals in the past year? Sometimes it feels like I haven’t done much, but looking at the year in aggregate I’m proud of some of the things I’ve accomplished or helped with that have a direct impact on healthcare.

  • I worked on several projects professionally to make lab data more accessible and user-friendly for patients and doctors. I joined up with the company Medivo as a contractor, and over the last 6 months I worked Amanda, Brett, Sunay, Herry, Jessica, and the rest of their awesome team along with my friend/amazing designer Jackson Latka to help launch two products.
  • Along with Susan Dybbs I co-facilitated a workshop on Participatory Design at the fabulous ‘patients first’ Stanford Medicine X conference (organized by Dr. Larry Chu) – it went over extremely well with participants, and we hope to hold a longer workshop in the upcoming year.
  • Also at Medicine X, I got to meet a whole crew of amazing and inspiring e-patients whom (whom?) I admire greatly.
  • I had the opportunity to participate in a design workshop at the IDEO headquarters in Palo Alto as part of the Medicine X conference. During the day I got to know IDEO’s Dennis Boyle, patient advocate extraordinaire Nick Dawson, my fellow MG patient Laura , and a whole host of other highly interesting people.
  • Here in Burlington, I co-organized a meet-up group along with my friend Sam Meyer to bring together folks who are interested in innovation in healthcare – the Burlington Healthcare Innovators. We held a number of happy hours and an ignite-type event featuring 12 healthcare innovators in Burlington.
  • I got to organize a panel called ‘Patient Innovators and Instigators‘ at the Healthcare Experience Design conference last spring – highlighting how patients have innovated to make sense of their health stories. Ken Spriggs and Lana Voynova shared ways they have visualized their health.
  • In November I had the chance to organize a panel for the Digital Health Conference called ‘Better Healthcare by Design: How Data Visualization, Behavior Change Techniques, and User-Centered Design Can Create Successful Products‘; in the process, I got to know panelists and designers Steve Dean, Dustin DiTommaso and fellow e-patient/designer Molly Lafferty.
  • In June I gave a short ignite talk at the Eyeo conference in Minneapolis about visualizing my health history on a timeline, and about the opportunity for data visualization in healthcare. Lots of people came up to me after my talk and shared their stories with me, which was a profound experience for me and which I wrote about here.
  • I’ve had the chance to do a lot of interviews and usability testing sessions with patients and doctors as part of my work with Medivo and Medical Avatar.
  • I’ve continued to work on my health history timeline concept

I’m most happy with the relationships and collaboration I’ve had in the past year. Many of the folks I named above are people I just met in 2013, but I consider all of them close friends. We all share certain values and a collective vision; we support each other through design and health problems; we believe in the power of the individual and in the power of design; and we believe in patient empowerment above all.

Not that it’s all rosy. I find myself spread thin, pulled between competing priorities, putting off my passion projects by cleaning and straightening the house too much…one goal for 2014 is to clean less! And manage my priorities better. And stop eating so much chocolate. And…to cut myself some slack from time to time.

Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing all I can to make a difference. Often I wonder if I need to move away from Vermont, somewhere closer to a hub of healthcare technology action. But if last year was any indication, it’s possible to live in a place I love, spend a lot of time outdoors, maintain a good quality of life, and still be able to have an impact.

I’m looking forward to working hard and meeting more fabulous patients, designers, and collaborators in 2014.

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