Lessons from the Front Lines | Context Matters

I had the honor of opening the MM&M Transforming Healthcare Conference in New York on 5 May, 2016, kicking off an agenda that explored all phases of the industry, from understanding the patient to the various clinical trials stages and considerations. Props to the MM&M team for assembling a diverse and engaging series of speakers and viewpoints, and thanks for including me.

The focus of my remarks, Lessons from the Front Lines, was to encourage the industry to look more closely at the factors driving patient engagement as we focus on ‘beyond the pill’ solutions. That means understanding what drives connections and understanding the patient/customer as a consumer, and the broader context in which they live, work, play and thrive. With a career that has run the gamut from medical devices to stylish, consumer-focused wearables, to the world of research science, context has been the common theme in all of my endeavors.

  • At AgaMatrix, understanding the context in which patients were using their glucose meters enabled us to design products that worked for older patients who were managing issues related to and beyond their diabetes, as well as products that helped younger patients overcome some of the stigma of carrying a test kit. After all, having a device that plugs into an iPhone – especially in the early days of the iPhone – was very cool.
  • At Misfit, understanding how customers wanted their fitness tracker to integrate into their lives was critical. While it had to be seamless, being invisible wasn’t actually a good thing, but engaging and rewarding was.

In both of those examples, we designed products for the whole customer – the consumer – and focused on creating emotional engagement and attachment. That perspective was critical to success in both marketplaces. And, for our industry overall, relating to the consumer – not just the patient – is a requirement if we want to ensure compliance.

At Elemental Machines, my career-long focus on context continues, albeit for an altogether different audience. We are helping laboratory managers and research scientists understand the contextual details that surround their work in order to help them improve their research processes and experimental reproducibility – lofty goals, but it turns out that contextual details can have a profound impact on this work.

Getting back to the industry, while it continues to develop innovative pharmaceutical therapies and devices, understanding the context in which those therapies are ‘consumed’ is key; that context can undermine or amplify the effect of the ‘pill.’

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If you are interested in seeing the Twitter conversation about the conference, search for #mmmtransformhc for the recap and visit the MM&M Transforming Healthcare Conference site for the agenda and speaker list.