Zen and the Art of Body Hacking

Most of the efforts and experiments I see in self-measurement, quantified self, body hacking or whatever you choose to call it, tend to be focused on physical health and fitness.  Fitbit and Jawbone are the obvious hardware embodiments of these endeavours.

Clearly there is value in this, yet I see relatively few experiments in the measurement and improvement of psychological health.  The mental Yin to the physical Yang.

I have long had an (until now unpublished) interest in using self-measurement and biofeedback to increase focus and reduce stress in a business environment.

The goal of my experimentation is to keep the business success, even improve on it through increased focus and at the same time reduce the negative effects of stress when delivering these results.

I have been using the HeartMath Inner Balance device that connects to my iPhone and measures Heart Rate Variability (HRV).  Low levels of HRV indicate stress and higher levels relaxation.  There are plenty of articles that provide more detail however I like this recent one, that both explains HRV and highlights its potential value from a business perspective.

There is a lot of work going on in this area but most of it (including the above article) centres on dedicating a specific time during the day to improve your HRV score…

..In my experimentation I had another idea as outlined in the video below…. 

 

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The What and Why of Big Data in Health Care

I feel I must start this blog by plugging a book.  And no it is not one I have written.

The 2 reasons for plugging it are:

(1) It is actually a very good book

(2) I have ‘lifted’ a few of the healthcare examples for this blog

The book ‘Big Data – A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work & Think’,  is a broad discussion on the opportunities and challenges around big data now and into the future.

Anyway read on, unless you want to see a summary video blog of this post, on a very scenic but windy Budapest hill top!

Taking it from the start, what is Big Data again anyway?

Big Data is defined  as ‘data sets so large and complex that they can’t be processed by traditional tools’

A fairly vague and subjective definition.

The advent of Big Data as a term has unsurprising coincided with the voluminous explosion of data in our world.

A nice 19th century example illustrates that Big Data is not necessarily a new concept.  Commodore Maury used ship logbooks to identify more efficient routes at sea.   It cut journey times by a third.  This was data that was previously never shared, meaning that sea crossings relied on the experience, instincts and intuition of the captain.

This historical example highlights a very important aspect of big data.  Using the original data for a secondary purpose.  There were many regulatory and practical reasons for logging a ships position however improving journey times was not one of them.

Today several factors are coalescing to drive Big Data

  • Ease of collection: We can attach affordable sensors to practically anything
  • ‘The Data Exhaust’: A huge volume of data is generated as a by product of our daily actions, e.g. internet searches, phone calls, credit card transactions, medical monitoring and so on
  • Storage:  There are now cheaper and more accessible ways of storing large volumes of data
  • ‘Processing Power’: Affordable and accessible tools now exist to combine and interrogate mass data sets
  • ‘Big Data Mindset’: Leading organizations and individuals are becoming increasing skilled in exploiting opportunities inherent in the data

Big Data is even proving that Einstein got it wrong, with one of his famous quotes. (actually many attribute this quote to Einstein but the evidence is not conclusive )

‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted’

It is true that not everything that we collect will be of use, but there is no way of predicting this at the outset.  So there is a strong argument for ‘counting’ absolutely everything.  And with the technology available there is very little we cannot count.

Anyway bring it back to healthcare with the examples:

  • Tracking and predicting epidemics: The Google Flu example is not a new one, however the essential insight that a set of, seemingly unrelated, keywords searched for in a particular locality can predict a flu outbreak is interesting.  (in addition to flu related search terms) Google might, for example, tell us ‘Increased searches for chocolate bars correlate with a greater incidence of the flu’ in a specific geography, although we may only speculate on why.
  • Medication Adherence:  All sorts of seemingly irrelevant data points, such as where you live, how long you have lived there, if you own a car etc can be crunched to predict your likelihood of taking your medication as prescribed.  It is pure correlation.  Buying a car won’t necessarily help you take your medicines at the right time. Again not a new example but an interesting and controversial use of #bigdata
  • Human health data: 16 different biological data streams were captured from premature babies, that when combined in the right way, using algorithms, were able to detect an infection 24 hours before it became visible.  This means earlier more effective treatments.

In all these examples the data tells us What is happening but not Why .  Big Data is there to predict but not to provide answers.  If drinking orange juice and aspirin was to lead to remission in certain types of cancer patients, the what (i.e. remission) is more important than the why.  Of course the why would  be of immense interest in further study.

These examples only mark the surface of what is possible in healthcare.  We miss a big opportunity as most of the data captured from patients, i.e. ECG data is just discarded.  In most cases the systems are not in place to integrate the various streams of data and deliver meaningful insights.

All sorts of questions remain about who owns the data, and current data protection rules break down in this new world.  How can you meaningfully opt into the collection and use of data, for a purpose that has not even been envisaged yet.

Big Data is Big News in many fields but surely, despite my bias, the advances in healthcare will be the most exciting.

 

 

The Rise of the Emotional Machines

 

Technology is getting emotional, thankfully not in a stroppy or petulant way.

It is not so much about computers expressing emotions, rather becoming more attuned to our own emotional states.

The Q sensor is one device that can monitor emotions and stress levels. An interesting application is in autism  where it has been able to monitor stress levels, that are not discernible from the child’s expressions or body language.

The child can appear to have a very sudden ‘meltdown’ where in reality the sensor shows a gradual build up of stress and frustration, culminating in a sudden emotional crunch point.

Smart cameras that recognise emotions via facial expressions have also been used in autism, in this case predicting other people’s emotions. Autistic children, often unable to discern moods and expressions of others, are given feedback from the device, helping them be more sensitive to other people’s emotions.

 

The Affectiva Q sensor
The Affectiva Q sensor – detecting our emotions

 

These emergent devices have also been used in market research, e.g. assessing the impact of advertising. Rather than gain participant feedback solely via questions and self reported feedback, a much richer and authentic picture can be gathered via biosensors and cameras that track facial expressions

 and emotional response.

These devices have been proven to work effectively in the research stage, yet are still costly.

It won’t be long before they become mainstream and we are all using these devices.

Consider a specific medical example where a doctor is interacting online with promotional or educational content from a pharma company.

The content should already be tailored to that doctor’s specific needs and situation. The beauty of this technology is that it can add another communication layer, tailoring the content to the doctor’s mood and needs at a specific moment in time.

A doctor who normally loves rich data and detail, but who is busy and tired will automatically be provided a shorter summary. A doctor who becomes distracted could be quickly re engaged with a timely question or request to input some information, or being served up some compelling and entertaining content.

Scary? Intrusive? Well who would have thought we would be where we are now, the privacy we have been prepared to trade for various online benefits.

The possibilities are immense for marketing across all sectors.

And it wont be long before our computers have more emotional intelligence than the average medical sales rep. (Although some may say that day arrived long ago)

 

 

Integration is the New Innovation

It seems i missed the season, where multiple predictions are made, on how technology will impact our lives in general and healthcare specifically.  These predictions range from the very optimistic to the very obvious. Now, I’m not knocking this sport – if I had dusted off my crystal ball in time I would certainly have given it a go.

Clearly hibernating and late out of the starting blocks I thought I would indulge myself with only 1 pharma 2013 prediction. In fact prediction is a little grandiose, it is more of an observation,

This year will be where ‘Pharma’ spends it’s energies integrating existing tactics rather than experimenting with new ones.

Several high profile clients I have worked with in 2012 are doing very little revolutionary in terms of individual tactics. The innovative bit, is actually joining the right old & new tactics together in a way that meets customer & business needs, in an efficient and measurable way.

Admittedly this may sound insipid and uninspiring, clearly less fun compared to say… developing a novel thought recognition health social media platform that is able to moderate comments and record Adverse Events before they are even written. etc. etc.

However, effective integration is the key to unlocking the business value from digital & social media and many pharma companies are starting to realise this.

Similar to me with this post, some of the companies I work with were late out of the starting blocks when it came to digital marketing. They let the pioneers take the arrows – learn from the early mistakes & successes and are now in a position to leapfrog their digital exploring rivals.

Some examples of this thinking are:-

  • Ensuring there are defined and accessible metrics for each and every tactic, from web portals to medical apps.  Based on customer behaviour and feedback the tactic can then be quickly optimised, scrapped or replaced.
  • Customer channel preferences should be captured, allowing them to select the channel and frequency of communication.
  • The entire customer journey needs to be mapped and relevant, engaging content served up at each stage. An easy truism to trot out, yet a significant challenge to make a reality.  An example, is if a customer completes an online learning module, their responses should be used to tailor future modules and inform the wider relationship with the company.
  • Strong behavioural calls to action need to be set up and monitored, i.e. number of Doctors reviewing a product administration video or number of patients downloading a symptom checking app or simple checklist, that recommends they see a doctor if required.
  • And of course ensuring a tighter integration with the sales force, if they are indeed a relevant part of the mix.

So then, is 2013 set to be a boring year for pharma?

Well I actually can’t see many (business!) things being more exciting than being able to deliver mutual customer & business value in a measurable way.

There will and should still be experimentation of course, primarily at a strategic level, where pharma examines suitable future business models and what services will be most relevant to consumers in the emerging landscape.

I’d be interested in hearing if this is reality, is the experimentation phase being replaced by one of more focussed integrated execution?  Or is my experience at odds with an ongoing digital wild west of pharma? Feel free to add your thoughts…

Gary Monk and 2Rs SEO war

I Googled my name recently.

Almost immediately I felt a slight sense of frustration and embarrassment.

These feelings were not evoked by the ‘egocentric’ act of ‘Self Googling’ (honest), I mean everyone does that…don’t they?

The frustration was that Google perpetually (ahem yes I checked repeatedly) self corrected, assuming I was actually searching for another Gary Monk, (actually spelt with 2r’s and captain of Premier League football team Swansea City)

Gary Monk
I don’t even play football!

 

This meant I had to click through to the ‘right’ Gary Monk every time.

The acute embarrassment was not created, by finding something I would rather not see about myself online, rather by noticing that once I had clicked through to the ‘real’ Gary Monk, my most recent blog post was August last year.

Gary Monk

Well I have been busy etc etc, but still my gut reaction was that I needed to post something, anything.  Just write absolutely anything, at least with a revised date it will look more current!

The goal (no footy pun intended) I immediately set myself was for this blog site to be number 1 in Google and of course for Google to no longer assume ‘gary monk’ was a typo in favour of the 2R version.

I have cheekily employed some immediate tactics in this post. Not wanting to help the other Gary Monk (with 2Rs) in the search engine stakes I have refused to write his name correctly anywhere in this blog, referring to him henceforth as 2Rs.  I have ‘generously’ used the name Gary Monk throughout this post, even in the blog title and alt tags of the images (in case you didn’t notice) in the hope that this increased ‘keyword density’ might appeal to Google when Gary Monk (1R) is typed into the search field (most likely by Gary Monk himself)

Maybe my blog will not have the gravity to usurp the captain of a mid-table premiership footy team, but it will make this Gary Monk feel like he is doing something positive towards his goal.  Also I am not against 2Rs owning his 2R space but would prefer his gets his online hands off the 1R territory.

Now I am not entirely comfortable with peppering Gary Monk throughout this blog post especially resorting to speaking about myself (that’s Gary Monk to be clear) in the 3rd person in order to shoehorn a few more gratuitous Gary Monks in there, but it is a means to an end.  (although I am not sure which of the 50 shades of Grey Hat SEO this falls under)

Longer term I have also committed to writing regular blog posts to meet my objectives of being Google’s preferred Gary Monk and getting this site to the top of the rankings.

After some reflection, I realised I have a goal of personal Google domination and at least the semblance of a plan to get there (admittedly it may need some work!) but I have not explored my purpose for doing this?

Is it ego driven? to generate some discussion and debate? provide useful content to the relevant online communities? for fun? to generate leads for my business? to increase my online presence and impact?

Any one of these is ok, if I am clear about it.  I should of course establish success metrics where appropriate, for example being able to quantify business leads gained (or possibly increase in head circumference size for the more self-indulgent purposes)

However this quick fire reaction, actually means I am actually guilty of what I often challenge Pharma on, in the course of my work.  The knee-jerk “We need to do this now and this is how we will do it” without exploring the purpose and what real success actually looks like.

‘Let us try to optimise our websites for search’ without considering whether any of our target patients or doctors will actually go there.

If we do get them to our website, what will they actually do differently as a result, what call to actions are in place to both drive and measure these behavioural shifts?

The list goes on… ‘we need to ‘do a social media campaign’, create a series of mobile apps, maximise hits on our site…’

These objectives are often formed without understanding how our audience or company will actually benefit as a result.

So then, I need to go back to defining my purpose, or simply wait for 2Rs to retire from professional football.