Category Archives: Technology

The Importance of Usability: Putting the Patient First

In addition to developing apps that allow patients to track their lifestyle habits—exercise, diet, sleep patterns, etc—mHealth is also promising in its potential to engage patients in their general health information. Specifically, in the information that is stored in hospital health records. A play on EHRs, Mana Health has developed “a patient portal solution that has been designed for today’s consumer.”

Mana Health is a New York startup that won the opportunity to design the patient portal for the New York eHealth Collaborative, a non-profit organization that works to improve health care for New Yorkers through the development and establishment of electronic health records. Mana Health recently designed an interface that facilitates the sharing of patient data around the state, not only between hospitals, but also from hospital-to-patient. The endeavor is unique because it is not contained in a single healthcare system, but rather will pull information from across the state and consolidate it in a user-friendly “patient portal” platform.

One of the best features of the program, at least in my opinion, is how user-friendly the interface appears to be. While existing electronic medical records (such as Epic) are filled with numbers and abbreviations, Mana Health’s platform is truly geared towards the patient and offers streamlined graphics that illustrate the patient’s relevant health information.

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 11.08.24 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-26 at 11.08.35 PM

Mana Health’s platform transforms the complex electronic health record into a personal health record that allows patients easy access to their information: “unlike the clunky PHRs of days past, they said they wanted something that a typical consumer would feel comfortable using.” Their concern for user-centered designs is something that all mHealth developers should strive to emulate. The liberal use of color-coded graphics is a simple way to increase the scope of users, especially to those who may have low health literacy and will serve to benefit from the image-based layout.

As mHealth advances, there are many issues that will continue to spring up. I have addressed several of these in past blog posts—addressing low health literacy, accessing hard-to-reach populations, funding mHealth endeavors—and the creation of user-friendly platforms is yet another point of serious consideration. mHealth is a direct product of creativity and innovation, and these driving forces should not stop at the development of the idea, but carry over into the details of its execution.

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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.

Sleep Profile Followup

The sleep profile quiz, if you’re interested!


Resurrecting PowerPoint in Medical Education

I recently visited one of my teachers from high school and was greatly amused to see her teaching class from an archaic overhead projector.  I did not understand why, in a world with so much innovative technology, she had opted to use such outdated equipment. The experience caused me to ponder the extent to which technology has become integrated in our culture, and how this has affected the increasing role of multimedia software in education.


Tools like PowerPoint, podcasts, video tutorials, etc., offer new and innovative teaching methods and possibilities. As a result, these technologies are used so frequently that it has become almost more unusual for a professor NOT to use some sort of multimedia tool in conjunction with their lecture. PowerPoint, especially, has become a popular multimedia resource for professors because of its ease of access and ability to streamline information into bullet-pointed lists.

While the software offers a variety of options for presenting and configuring information in many different ways, most professors still opt for the classic bullet-point format. We have all had that professor who lectures quickly, flipping through plain slides overloaded with text, resulting in a mad rush to record the information. Ultimately, this leads to confusion and the propagating of washed-out expressions and bored students.  Sadly this detrimental practice is so common that researchers have named the phenomenon, “death by PowerPoint.”


If this is the case, then how is the use of PowerPoint as an educational tool any better than my teacher’s antiquated, boring overhead projector?

Medical education provides an extremely high stress environment where students must learn enormous amounts of information in a limited amount of time. In such a high-stake atmosphere, improvements in the effectiveness of educational tools like PowerPoint could have a massive effect on the education of our country’s upcoming physicians.

So, are there ways to improve the use of PowerPoint and other multimedia tools to make them better resources for imparting information to students?


Example of Adapted Powerpoint Slide

Research done by Richard E. Mayer has directly addressed many of these questions. Mayer has established a number of theories and principles regarding design and implementation strategies of multimedia educational materials through his work with evidence-based education materials. Both his and supporting research has shown that incorporation of Mayer’s multimedia design strategies involving college-level students showed increases in short-term retention of information. In addition, current research has shown that incorporation multimedia (similar to Mayer’s design) led to an increase in the short-term retention of information by medical students.

Preliminary evidence has shown that PowerPoint and its use can be redeemed, but still leaves many questions unanswered:

(1) Is there a possibility of improving multimedia presentation to improve long-term information retention?

(2) Do the use of multimedia tools improve student’s ability to incorporate information into a clinical setting?



Mayer, R. Multimedia Learning, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009.


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