Category Archives: Communication

Final Thoughts about the Medical Media Arts Lab



Last night was our final critique of our semester in Medical Media Arts Lab. It’s been a incredible journey being able to see a simple idea turn into a feasible project in just a few short months!

Here have been my three biggest takeaways:

1. Having a passion is so important. Many times throughout the semester I would feel discouraged or unmotivated, especially in the beginning when we were trying to figure out what exactly was the question we were trying to answer. Were we trying to make an exhibit to educate people about artificial heart technology or to tell the untold story of Dr. Akers’ contribution? After the first critique many of the comments expressed the same. But as Mijin mentioned in our presentation, it was the passion and excitement of the audience members during our first presentation that made us realize we had something bigger on our hands than we expected and helped us go back to the drawing board and see our problem in a different light. It was also encouraging each time we conducted an oral history interview with the individuals involved in the artificial heart project in the 1960’s. They each were so willing to share their story and eager to see it come to life in the present day, and the energy was contagious. Without a passion and an intrinsic motivation to continue, this project wouldn’t be happening.

2. Teamwork is essential. Our prototype and ideas honestly wouldn’t have come this far without the team I was in. Emily is an amazing speaker and hard worker, Mijin has valuable resources and skills with capturing stories from the past, and I contribute with my skills in digital media. This can be applied beyond the scope of our project into the subject of healthcare as well. All semester we’ve been talking about how to improve the communication, through whatever medium, between physician and patient. We’ve been talking about changing the conversation of the physician-patient relationship from the patient being a passive follower to the patient having an active voice and contribution to the dialogue about their healthcare. This can only happen if both the patient and doctor see themselves as a team rather than two opposing sides of a problem.

3. Start with Why. This is technically taken from Simon Sinek’s TED talk, but it’s been a common critique through the design process and practicing our presentations as well. Each time we’ve come up with a cool idea for a display we wanted to include in the exhibit, we were always stopped and asked “Why?” Would implementing this idea bring us closer to our goal, or do we want to add it because it looks cool? I saw the same principle applied in the other projects as well as they gave their final critiques. Many of the other teams designed a mobile app as part of their solution to their problem, but I liked how the ICU team recognized that although using an iPad to display information about rounds would be cool and in line with the digital health literacy trends of today, the current limitations of technology suggest that using a more traditional medium like a giant display screen would suit their problem’s needs a lot better.

I’m so thankful to my team members, our amazing problem-owners Dr. Grande-Allen and Dr. Igo, Dr. Ostherr and the teaching team, and all the individuals who helped us get to where we are today. I’ll be graduating this semester and moving to a different city so my contribution to our Artificial Hearts Project has come to an end, but it’s been an honor to be a part of this amazing process, and I can’t wait to visit when the exhibition opens!

This ER Wait Is Killing Me

Check out the website if you need a doctor’s help in the near future!

Promoting Patient-Centric Adherence: Emerging mHealth Technologies

Last night we had our final Medical Media Arts Lab presentations—a bittersweet culmination of all of the hard work we as a class have put forth throughout the semester. My group finally had the opportunity to present a detailed plan and accompanying visuals detailing our mobile app solution for improving patient-doctor communication regarding shared treatment plans for Type II diabetics. Professionals in the audience gave us some very valuable feedback and suggestions, which, should the project continue, would greatly improve our existing design and the user experience. Our app focuses on improving patient adherence by creating shared treatment plans that take both the patient and doctor’s needs into consideration. To enhance our design, it was suggested that we add a reward component that provides positive feedback to patients who follow their treatment plans, as well as include an avenue for patients to socialize in an effort to increase motivation and accountability. I assumed that these were components our team would need to develop; however, it turns out that mHealth startups have already started to explore these possibilities, both within the context of diabetes, and for chronic and other health conditions in general.

I came across these emerging businesses on the mHealth News website, outlined in an article entitled “Startups bolster adherence via social networking, mobile apps.” Ayogo and Get Real Health “offer a care coordination platform and mobile application, respectively, that seek to improve on…abysmal adherence statistics.” I was particularly interested in Ayogo, which utilizes a health behavior change and gamification platform called GoodLife to establish meaningful social interactions between patients, patients and their family members, and patients and their doctors around their health condition.


The platform also utilizes psychological triggers and secondary applications to personalize the user experience. The specific mobile app used by Ayogo is called Empower, which “helps patients who are newly diagnosed with a chronic condition to take control of their treatment.” The app organizes the patient’s treatment plan into a ‘health habit curriculum’ that uses behavior change principles, self-reporting, social interactions, and a rewards system to encourage adherent patient behavior.

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The app tries not only to engage patients in their prescribed treatment plans, but also to actually establish new habits in the patient’s daily life by having them complete small activities or games each day that both facilitate the patient-reward system, but also help the program tailor to the patients’ needs. By actively engaging patients with the app through games, rewards, and social features, Empower, and more broadly Ayogo, helps patients improve adherence to their treatment plans.

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It seems that the only missing component is the facilitation of real-time patient-doctor communication about the treatment plan. This app offers what to me seems like a brilliant, innovative proposal to a problem common across nearly all chronic health conditions; however, our development offers that extra, crucial component addressing the in-person patient-doctor encounter. As we move forward, app developers should remain open to learning and growing from the work of other startups. Mobile health is a rapidly growing field that offers much opportunity for profit and competition. However, let us not lose sight of the key stakeholder—the patient. As the race for the next innovation commences, we need to make sure that all possibilities are considered, collaboration is encouraged, and innovation is allowed to reach its full potential.

Look Pretty, Work Pretty

There are countless resources and reputable medical journals out there in the world that would provide patients with everything they need – information from how to tackle the seasonal flu to managing side effects after being injected with ketamine for surgery. There are countless brochures, booklets, and instruction manuals that guide patients through critical information at any point during a treatment process.

But – the problem is, these don’t get read. It is the standard “tl;dr” – too long, didn’t read – phenomenon.

Health literacy is apart of the issue, but the visual impact of the message is critical as well. After 15 weeks of using research and feedback for creating an ePatient intervention in the Medial Media Arts Lab – it has come to be blatantly obvious that design can be what makes or breaks a product. Sometimes, visual attractiveness will win over efficiency.

Looking through different infographics and flowcharts about the healthcare system, I came to stumble upon the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Visualizing Health project. This project attempts to help healthcare providers chose the best method for displaying health statistics in a manner that will be easy for the health consumer to understand.

Their main gallery tool – Wizard – displays a whole database of images that you can choose from depending on what type of information you are trying to convey. You can select from a wide variety of images and read information about what specific factors made that particular image powerful, and how successful it was in conveying the information it set out to address.

Here are a couple examples:

This website is a great resource for students and professionals alike, and can very well be applied to areas outside of health and patient care.

Communication is key to any service job, and especially to medicine because sometimes healthcare providers and their consumers just seem to speak two different languages. To play the cliché – a picture is worth a thousand words – the right picture in the right scenario just might be the intervention we need to push patients to be a little more engaged, educated, and involved in their treatment.

Passive medicine is easy to find, but through resources like these and new technologies incorporating the patient more into healthcare decisions, we are slowly but surely overriding this attitude. If patients feel more confident in the way they are able to accept and understand information, they should feel more confident walking into the physician’s office and conveying their opinions about clinical treatment. Passivity is the first thing to break when trying to bring about new engagement in patients, and if pictures are the answer – then let’s get drawing!

Trust the Knife

Last summer my father had a basal cell carcinoma removed. It was about a dime sized patch of skin just to the left of his nose. Although this form of cancer is rarely deadly it was still a sobering experience for my family especially considering we are all fair skinned and highly susceptible to skin cancer. Living in southern California does not help either. The surgery was successful and after one year and several cortisone shots one can barely tell my dad had a chunk of flesh taken out of his face.

My dad did however have one problem with his treatment process. It wasn’t the hospital facilities or the painful tending to his wound every night after the surgery. Instead his biggest issue with the whole experience was that his doctor rarely talked during checkups. During the whole process I remember him constantly bringing up how the doctor would come in the room, examine him and then most often leave without uttering a single word. When my dad tried to ask him how everything is going he would nod and mutter inaudibly under his breath. The only words the doctor ever said to my dad involved what he was going to do and that my dad had to make another appointment with his secretary. The nurse was responsible for informing him why they were doing surgery and providing background information on this form of cancer. My dad was really turned off by his doctor’s lack of enthusiasm and transparency. I was shocked that a doctor, whose job it is to form a bond with his or her patient and instill trust, would not share information face to face and instead use nurses convey reasoning for the treatment.


To me this kind of doctor seems to be of the old school type, those who believe you do what I say and everything will be okay. While many younger doctors focus on good bedside manner there remain many that practice old-fashioned principles. Granted my dad’s doctor is in his late seventies so he is most likely the byproduct of this archaic brand of practicing medicine. Nonetheless, this example draws attention to the necessity of doctor-patient communication. It is important not only that communication take place regularly but that the patient feels he or she is on a level playing field and can speak freely. The best way to ensure patient involvement is for the doctor to speak more often, using language that the patient can understand while having a pleasant and familiar tone. In this class we have learned a lot about how technology can enhance communication but it is vital we do not forget that quality care involves personal conversation that creates an atmosphere conducive to establishing trust.


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