Healthcare: Where Is The ‘I’ In ‘Innovation’?

Las Vegas has a variety of buffets. The buffet lines do not distinguish by IQ. Case in point, there was no sign near the cafeteria trays that read, “Those of you who think prime numbers have something to do with beef, please use the right hand lane.

Consequently, I was queued up behind a husband and wife team who I soon learned were in Vegas for vacation. It seems their Winnebago was double-parked in the Wynn parking lot. The husband, dressed in an untucked bowling shirt, matching shorts, and black wingtips and socks, preceded his wife down the aisle of salad accouterments.

His wife, Beverly, the non-bowler, wore a short-sleeved linen jacket, and wore a macraméd bag big enough to hold a hammock across one shoulder. Mixed greens. Two slices of cucumber. Shredded carrots. Cauliflower. And then we hit an impasse.

Peas. By their nature peas are round, not circular. Had they been circular, I may not have found the need to write you today. But round they were. And she had set her mind upon the task of moving those round peas with a fork from their bowl and placing them on her salad plate.

And round things, when pushed, roll. An equal and opposite reaction. Physics. A class in which Beverly had not excelled. She pushed them, pea by pea, from the left, and they rolled to the right. She reversed the direction of her pushing, and we both watched mesmerized as the peas rolled left. (Her husband, who I assumed had previously watched Beverly try to scoop peas had scooted further down the line and was wrestling with the chilled lo mein.)

I found myself thinking that I could put Beverly and I out of our respective miseries by simply smashing the peas with the heel of my shoe—then they would be circular—not round—and she could put them on her plate, and we could eat.

Minutes later we arrived at the food weighing station. Upon when Beverly announced to the skein of people who had by now backed up behind her like wounded F-4 Phantom fighter planes awaiting their turn to land on a carrier, I think I have a coupon someplace in my bag.

As she fumbled for her wallet in the bottom of her bag she bumped her tray. One of the round peas rolled off her plate and on to the service tray. At the sight of the migrating pea—assuming that peas do in fact migrate—the group of hungry travelers behind me moaned in unison, and we quickly took up a collection to pay for her meal.

That was my HIMSS experience. I hope yours was better.

Permit me to start the thinking man’s portion of today’s missive with a question. What is the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Between an elementary school hall monitor in elementary school and the principal. The thermometer and the hall monitor simply record things. They are not meant to take action.

LifeLock, the personal security identity firm that makes sure nobody is using your identity is running a commercial with a man dressed in a uniform standing in a bank. Robbers enter the bank, they see the man in uniform, and they are taken aback because they think they are about to be arrested. The uniformed man tells them that he is just a monitor. He does not take action.

His role is the same as your health apps and wearable devices. They monitor. They record. They do not take action. Heck, they do not even suggest that their wearer take action.

True case in point—mine. As you lay on your back on the macadam midway through your run, in a position yoga enthusiasts call the death pose, your running app notices that your pace has slowed. It notices that your lap time has increased and that the average number of calories you were burning has decreased.

Your headband, the one that analyzes your sweat is recording that the temperature of your sweat has cooled rapidly. And the chest strap you are wearing to detect your pulse, nattily storing each beat so that you can upload it later is issuing a warning to tell you to replace the lithium battery because while it knows it is still attached to your chest, it is no longer recording a pulse.

You were doing all of the right things, and you were right to be doing them. Dead right, as it turns out. Fortunately for me, and I kid you not, a cardiology nurse drove by, saw me, and called an ambulance. It turned out I was overreacting, but once you’ve done the stent thing, overreacting is wiser than under reacting.

Penn just released an app that displays your EKG on the screen of your phone. As a heart patient, I found that to be something I want to use. How do I send it to Penn to get my cardiologist to look at it? I asked Penn’s head of innovation? “You can’t,” he replied. Who reads it? I asked. “Nobody.”

It turns out that for wearables and apps there is no ‘I’ in innovation. And so, QED. If I am going to have 365 EKGs in a year, and only one of them is going to be read, do I really need the other 364?

And so as a heart patient I roll the dice every day and hope, as I have hoped every day of the last fourteen years that my only bad EKG happens on the exact same day as my annual visit to my cardiologist.

In Vegas people play craps. People using apps and wearables play craps with their health. So, having researched all of the wearables, here is the one I recommend. While it won’t tell you the time, it also won’t cost you four hundred dollars. Using a permanent pen, write these things on the back of your hand:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t’ drink to excess
  • Eat right
  • Exercise
  • Get enough sleep

Using my solution, you have to do the cognitive part, but you will be at least as healthy as using all of those apps.

We have traveled in a complete circle since you began reading this post. And together, if you and I have learned anything, we have learned that circles are easier to deal with than peas—which are round.

So when you are sitting on the highway in the middle of your run and wondering why it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, think back to what your mother told you—eat your peas.

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