HealthNovember 07, 2017

The 2017 recap on boosting the signal: This is health literacy on technology

When I came to Emmi over 14 years ago, it was clear technology offered a way to reach more people outside of the clinical setting and to build understanding and relationships. It was an opportunity to deliver information and set expectations to patients and families in a friendly way that’d be easy to consume. Technology continues to offer great promise - and to augment the relationships across healthcare.

By Geri Lynn Baumblatt 
Executive Director of Patient Engagement at Emmi

Thank you to all the contributors who helped us take a look at what’s happened and where we still need to go. In fact, we start with the patients.

Many of the best insights come from patients.

We can all sit around and debate what people will do or use and what will truly create and improve understanding. Katie McCurdy took technology into her own hands to create a symptom timeline that informed her own and her doctors’ understanding of her condition. My personal favorite may be the Vibrance map, giving insights into her non-medical self. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

Angie Newman interviewed Reva Berman discussed how technology like insulin pumps and then a continuous glucose monitor helped Reva understand what was causing the highs and lows in her blood sugar. Technology creates a path to deliver insights.

But, there are still challenges

In The Tech Rx Amy Bucher considered assumptions we make about everyone’s ability to effectively use technology and to evaluate the quality of information online.

And what role does “information evaluability” play? Brian Zikmund-Fisher sees a flood of health data, but little attention being paid to designing systems to provide the necessary context to support meaningful use of the data. On a similar note, e-Patient Dave deBronkart discussed how usability beats explanation and asked us:

Have you done everything in your power to lower the barriers - to improve the signal-to-noise ratio?

Picking up on these themes of data visualization and user-friendly platforms to get meaning out of data, Genelle Lamont described how when these are done right, it can help patients, policy makers, communities and other organizations understand and respond to health problems.

How else might we design for engagement and clarity?

Emily Azari had a Field Day and described the benefit of going into the health settings we’re designing tech for to truly understand what people need, want, will and could use. Diana Deibel discussed how design principles varies by platform in Designing for Clarity. And Mychal Voorhees looked at the need for plain language on social media.

Physicians Annmarie Laipakis and Simona Jakab asked How can your smartphone help your liver? With apps that provide patients with understanding and insights about salt and calories – key for people with fatty liver disease or cirrhosis.

In The Missing Vocabulary, GI doc Lauren Tormey discussed how online resources can help people talk about their bowel movements. It’s interesting how the language is lacking for something so basic, yet apparently unspeakable. When is the problem health literacy, and when is it cultural norms?

New insights and improved technology

Moran Cerf and Chris Rose described how neuroscience technology can help us understand when an interactive multimedia program is engaging and more likely to help patients. As they explained, “Great content, be it a movie, a soundtrack, a political speech, or a conversation, takes over our brains in a fashion that is so powerful, it leaves little room for idiosyncrasies.”

In an interview with Peter Bonis on Creating a Shared Playbook, he discussed how technology will ideally improve the understanding of both patients, clinicians and the care team. Tarah Knaresboro described how the new Emmi platform will give people more personalized, dynamic communication over time – more relevant, more engaging, should create even better understanding. And Carly Thanhouser and Holly Derry explained how computer-based tailoring can give clinicians insights into how to best communicate with patients at various points in their journey.

A last note — leaving but not gone

Over the last 15 years at Emmi, I’ve met amazing people who care deeply about changing healthcare. While great people have come and gone from Emmi itself, I’ve met many more patients, advocates, clinicians, and researchers simply by asking them to blog here or to collaborate on a piece for the AfPE Patient Engagement blog, be on a panel, or by volunteering at the Center for Plain Language or the Society for Participatory Medicine.

As I leave Emmi to continue looking at how to address the challenges patients and family caregivers face, those friendships and communities provide deep sense of connectedness, meaning and support.

Go find your people!

They are out there. They may be at the upcoming Caregiving conference in Chicago , a meet up, or volunteering at your local hospice or patient family advisory committee.

In fact, to give you a sense of what this can be like, go to the bottom right video on this page from the inaugural Participatory Medicine Conference and fast forward 4 minutes into the video and enjoy as ePatient Dave and Dr. Danny Sands do their take on “I got you babe”. … oh and there’s some great talks and panels on there as well from OpenNotes, Shannon Brownlee, Rushika Fernadopulle, and many others.


Engage every patient in their journey

Easy-to-use interactive programs, featuring conversational language and relatable examples, help you foster connections and extend your team’s reach beyond healthcare settings.

Back To Top