Consumer-Generated Data in a Big Data World: Report from the California HealthCare Foundation


August 20th, 2014

The July 2014 issue of Health Affairs covers a broad range of opportunities for use of Big Data in health care that will benefit individuals, the public at-large, and health care enterprises.

Big Data are getting bigger every day, as people create data while simply living their lives. They check into online social networks, use the global positioning system (GPS) feature on their smartphones, charge retail purchases on credit cards, don wearable devices that track activity, and record food intake on mobile apps. All of these activities leave a trail of digital “exhaust” in the Internet cloud.

In the era of Big Data in health care, such consumer-generated data can be mashed up with large sets of clinical information to yield rich insights for an N of 1—for a patient, a consumer—to drive cures for rare diseases, gain insights into complex chronic conditions, and anticipate public health epidemics. When consumers consciously and willingly contribute their personal data under fully transparent conditions for clinical research and population health, it can be seen as data used “for good.”

In Here’s Looking at You: How Personal Health Information Is Being Tracked and Used, published by California HealthCare Foundation on July 15, I discuss the opportunities to drive research and knowledge through adding consumers’ individual “small” data into Big Data analytics. The report looks at some developments, such as the consumer adoption of wearable technology in health care—smart watches, digital health trackers, and sensor-laden clothing (like smart running shoes and sports bras)—that enable people to collect, track, and analyze data on themselves. People managing chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes can use digital health technologies, such as using a Bluetooth-enabled inhaler (for asthma) or tracking blood glucose and diet through mobile health apps (for diabetes), to help them prevent a visit to the doctor’s office or, more acutely, the emergency department. Soon, connected homes and cars in an Internet-of-things world will be able to collect information on the health and activities of people that can populate algorithms and feed actionable advice back to a patient—for example, to increase a dose of insulin or to use an inhaler device to avert asthma symptoms. Read the rest of this entry »

Report from the Colorado Health Symposium: Speaking Each Other’s Languages in Health Care


August 12th, 2014

When it comes to health communication, there’s a lot of emphasis on cultural sensitivity—the need for health care providers to take a patient’s race and ethnicity into account in communicating with him or her. But the challenge of communicating effectively is not limited to situations in which people come from different countries or ethnic cultures, speak different languages or dialects, or practice different religions. And it also extends far beyond the relationship between health providers and patients.

The challenge and importance of communicating effectively were strong themes I heard in moderating a panel at the Colorado Health Foundation’s Colorado Health Symposium in July. The theme of the conference was “Health Transformed: The Power of Engagement,” and my panel focused on engaging relationships. Each of the panelists brought a unique perspective to this issue—and some insights we can all apply in a variety of situations.

Meet People Where They Are

Robin Shepper, a vice president at Welltok and former executive director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” children’s health initiative, emphasized the importance of using the WIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) approach in communicating effectively with others. For example, though policymakers may want young soldiers to eat better to improve their health, the military found that stock messages about enhancing nutrition or managing cholesterol didn’t resonate well with so-called young invincibles, many of whom have never experienced a serious health condition and are uninterested in health for health’s sake. When an effort to improve diet among members of this group was recast as “Fueling the Soldier Athlete,” emphasizing power, strength, and athleticism, it was enthusiastically adopted.

Express Empathy

Stacie Palotta is the senior director of the Office of Patient Experience at Cleveland Clinic. She described the clinic’s journey to become a more patient-centric institution. Somehow, as she put it, in the drive for clinical excellence, Cleveland Clinic had forgotten the power of a smile, as reflected in lackluster patient satisfaction ratings. Read the rest of this entry »

People Post: Foundation Staff and Board Member News; Job Openings


August 9th, 2014

In June, Gabriela Alcalde was promoted to vice president, policy and programs, at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, in Louisville.

Bess Bendet, director of the Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Blue Shield Against Violence program, announced in a June 30 e-alert that she will be leaving the foundation on November 18. She plans to divide her time between the San Francisco area and a rural area of Northern California. As of that e-alert, Bendet mentioned that she did not yet know where her “professional journey will go from here.” She will decide that in 2015, she told me in an e-mail. Below, see link to job posting to fill her position.

Read an April 2014 GrantWatch Blog post, “Health Care and Domestic Violence: A Prescription for Prevention,” which Bendet wrote.

Mitchell J. Blutt has been elected to the Commonwealth Fund’s board of directors. He is founder and CEO of the health care investment firm Consonance Capital, which is based in New York City. Blutt is also a clinical assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University, an August 1 e-alert said.

Grantmakers In Aging announced in June that it created “a new recognition for those outstanding leaders who have contributed to the field of aging philanthropy and who have now retired.” They are being called Honorary Life Members. Perhaps some of you who have been working around the field of philanthropy for a long time will remember these folks:  Read the rest of this entry »

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