Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Invisibility Cloak

Superpower Day. If you had a superpower – what would it be? How would you use it?

I love today's question. Although I'm not sure how it relates to healthcare, it is a fun topic to think about.

When someone grants you a wish you should probably wish for world peace or world hunger. In that vein, my initial response, given the topic, would be to have the superpower to simply lay hands on a person and have them feel healthy again. I would have the power to take away disease, disability and illness with the touch of a hand.

However, ignoring altruism, I personally think it would be fantastic to be invisible. This definitely stems from my desire to really know and understand people. If I were invisible, I would have the opportunity to be anywhere undetected and be able to see and hear what people really do and not rely on self-report or less than realistic lab studies.

You could also say I'm nosy. It would be fascinating to have the opportunity to "spy" on people. Not to get them in trouble but just to see what they're really like when nobody's around. It would definitely make me an in demand researcher/ethnographer! There is a great movie called Kitchen Stories where a researcher sits in a very high chair in a man's house to observe him. His placement is less than unobtrusive. Invisibility would grant access and allow me to view the most natural behaviors.

When I'm in a store or in a crowded place, I sometimes wish that I could be invisible. I would love to be able to shop without the hassle of talking to salespeople and engaging in meaningless conversation. I just want to look at the merchandise. Assuming my invisibility was formless, I could bob and weave through a large crowd without having to feel smooshed and suffocated by the tall and large bodies around me. (At 5 feet tall I have been to Oktoberfest and felt totally overwhelmed by the crowd and the large people in it.)

So hopefully I get to stabs at a superpower, one where I have the opportunity to heal and the second where I have the opportunity to observe and from those observations really begin to understand humanity.

Monday, April 2, 2012

In sickness and in health

Today's task:Quotation Inspiration. Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.- Mark Twain

America's Health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.- Walter Cronkite

Health is not valued till sickness comes.- Thomas Fuller

The quote by Mark Twain simply made me laugh out loud and I had to include it. Although he did not live long enough to see the Internet (1835-1910), I imagine the quote is truer today than ever. We have a wealth of health information at our fingertips, but it can just as easily be misinformation.

Walter Cronkite's quote is a tough pill to swallow (pun intended) but I believe he is accurate in the description. Healthcare is seen as nameless and faceless. Big corporations, private organizations all of whom are trying to capitalize on the almighty dollar. It may seem that way from the outside, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that there are many caring people trying to do the right thing on the inside.

But I really want to spend a moment or two on the last quote, "health is not valued until sickness comes." There are a few reasons why this quote is important. For one, it underlines how critical it is to participate in preventive care. It is only when we break a leg that we realize how easily we walk, drive or kick a ball every day. It is only when diagnosed with diabetes that we realize what an easy time we had eating whatever food was available at whatever time was convenient assuming our body will do the job of regulating our blood sugar.

The opposite is true as well. Sick people or people in pain forget what it is to be healthy. This weekend I actually had some respite from pain I've been in for about 18 months now. I had forgotten how many things I just chose not to do or participate in because it hurts all the time. I had been putting off the simple act of repotting some plants because getting the bag of dirt out was simply too difficult and too heavy. What a joy it is to not worry about pain or injury with every twist and turn of the day.

So the message from this quote is to celebrate each day, particularly if you are healthy. Be smart about staying healthy. Eat that apple a day, be smart about the food you put in your body and be smart about getting exercise. Get those preventive screenings, wear sunscreen and wash your hands. Breathe deeply and be thankful.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Health Time Capsule

I have been woefully absent at blogging. I decided to try the opportunity to join a blogging challenge this month to get me motivated. Since I saw BJ Fogg speak earlier this week, I have to "facilitate my behavior change" with "tiny habits". At the very least, I will read the topic for the day. I hope to respond to at least 50% of them. Right now, let's focus on today. If you're interested in taking on this challenge yourself please go to Health activist blog challenge.

Today's challenge Health Time Capsule. Pretend you’re making a time capsule of you & your health focus that won’t be opened until 2112. What’s in it? What would people think of it when they found it?

This is interesting because I think we are on the brink of some major changes in the next 100 years. the medicine we have today as well as the way it is managed will likely change significantly in the next 100 years.

Representative artifacts for the time capsule include: photos of cancer survivors, list of support groups, and iPhone with health apps? (I'm really not sure how that would work, but this is all in theory), printouts of health websites, journals of people with long-term illness and some over-the-counter medications. Also included would be a health insurance card and a paper folder with medical records, maybe many paper folders for one person representing the disparate connections. and of course a copy of an explanation of benefits showing just how confusing the system is.

Medicine today: We are still looking for a cure for cancer. We are looking to understand Alzheimer's and dementia. We don't understand diseases on the spectrum including fibromyalgia and autism. We don't yet have a convenient way to manage diabetes. Maybe it's my age, but most people I talk to these days have some type of issue. Many friends have struggled with breast cancer, some have succumbed to other cancers and many of us struggle with a variety of serious diseases as well as annoying ones such as allergies and headaches. The US is only beginning to understand the value of alternative medicine. Western medicine does not have all the answers and things like acupuncture and other complementary care are just beginning to enter more of a mainstream consciousness.

Healthcare today: I have one word - paper. We have far too much paper for a system that relies on multiple points of view and multiple inputs in order to make a successful diagnosis and accurately manage care. Again, we are on the brink, with some offices using Personal Health Records but very few of them connecting to others. Patients still need to wait far too long to access their own personal information.

Health insurance is another issue that has finally entered the limelight. Far too many people go uncovered or do not have care that adequately covers their needs. I'm no socialist, but I really think that basic needs like food and water and healthcare and shelter should be available to everyone. those who have should help to cover those who have not. Not by handing out a dollar on a freeway ramp, but by the system taking care of everyone. Right now, there is a major struggle, with individuals believing that a government mandated service is "unfair". Isn't denying access to healthcare unfair?

Medicine in 2112: When somebody opens my time capsule in 2112, I hope that this myriad of diseases has been cured. Of course, I can't be as naïve as to think that we won't have other diseases in its place. I hope that we will have found some astounding insights into biology that really help us understand these bodies we inhabit and how to best take care of them, and yes, possibly even alter them so that they feel healthy and strong as often as possible. I went to a conference several years ago on living to be 500. Although I'm not sure that is yet an idea our society or planet can sustain, I love the idea of living a long and healthy life. If we are going to live to even 100 or 200, we need to make sure that the quality of life follows along.

Healthcare in 2112: By then, I hope late-night talkshow hosts (Will there still even be late-night talk shows? And will we watch them through the glasses that have all of our streaming video by then?) are laughing at the paper that we used to push in "the old days". A personal health record is a given. From the day you are born your health is tracked on a tiny chip, maybe an embedded chip, but at least a chip that is with you always, or perhaps you have some kind of identifier that allows cloud access to all of your information because we have also solved some of the major privacy issues. The PHR allows you understand and have insight into your healthcare, you can have a dialogue with your providers, and any EMT who finds you knows quickly and easily how to access your health information. your healthcare providers, whether or not they are in the same system, can even talk to each other!*Gasp*

I'm no science fiction writer, and maybe these goals set the bar too low, but to me, if even a few of these are true 100 years from now, we will have made some amazing progress.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Barnes and Noble Nook review - tablets still seem to be in beta

Wow, it has been a while since I've commented on this blog. As you may or may not know I had a stint up at Microsoft for several months and then landed a full-time position as the senior user experience researcher at Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield here in lovely Portland Oregon.

After adapting to full-time work again, I intend to add some blog entries since I've had some interesting experiences with technology recently.

Most recently, I got a Barnes & Noble Nook tablet as a Hanukkah gift. Actually, I was sent some money that I put towards the new tablet. I spent a lot of time looking, mostly at the Kindle fire and the Nook trying to decide which one to purchase. (Also note, if you are looking at these devices, there is a Nook color and the Nook tablet. Be sure you get the one you're looking for.)

My first decision was, what do I want to do and how much do I want to spend? I already have two laptops plus a work laptop, so productivity is low on the importance scale.

My ideal device looks like this:
  • really portable: six or 7 inches like the e-readers
  • under $300 (trying to be realistic)
  • easy to read and download books and magazines including library loans
  • easy to check e-mail and use the Internet (Wi-Fi only is just fine)
  • great access to apps-ideally working with my iPhone, but that means paying Apple premiums
  • access to TV/movies
I am generally underwhelmed by the tablet market and particularly this crossover reader/tablet. They seem to do a little bit of everything but not a lot of anything. I have to say I really like the reading experience on the Nook. The UI is really nice for looking up words or highlighting-this is where I found the Kindle failed miserably putting me in unending loops. I also really liked the contrast on the screen over the Kindle.

However, downloading library books was a crazy experience, more unending loops and syncing with absolutely no feedback, although I guess that's more about the library website and less about the Nook itself. I also realize that at this premium price of $250 I will have to take out a lot of library books to make it worthwhile. I am still trying to figure out if a paper magazines that I subscribe to will allow me to download digital versions for free. I certainly hope so…

I compromised on apps and other functionality to retain a small footprint, a lightweight device and something in a "reasonable" price range.

I downloaded A copy of Real Simple magazine which looks beautiful. The only thing I realized is that I very often tear pages out of magazines with recipes or book recommendations or other interesting tidbits, and with the e-reader I can no longer do that and I'm not sure I can even print from it. I also have not figured out if there's any way to read the books that I have downloaded on my Nook on my iPhone. I don't imagine always having the device with me and would love to read when I have the chance. Although, the reason I got the tablet is that reading on the iPhone is a pretty painful experience. And I love to read.

The touchscreen is somewhat touch and go. Some pages are optimized which is nice, but the targets are still really small, somehow even worse than the iPhone, and it seems to take one or two touches to actually get it to register. or, it may just be that the Wi-Fi is relatively slow and it's loading but I don't realize it. I spend a lot of time watching the green bar go across the top as it downloads pages.

What I miss most is the ability to have many different apps. The store is extremely limited, which I only learned after my purchase. I have started bookmarking sites, but once you've gone apps you don't want to go back.

The final thing that comes to mind is the e-mail program. The iPhone very kindly lets you read e-mail and then mark it as "unread" so that when you view it on another device you realize you still need to answer that e-mail. Unfortunately, the Nook does not have that option. It's an option I make frequent use of, and definitely miss.

And, if you are purchasing this or any other tablet, I highly recommend a case that you can use either in vertical or horizontal position. I love that I can prop up a book and read it sitting all by itself on the table (especially given ongoing back problems). But you will also want to be able to watch a movie or video propped horizontally. The only case I have found for this device is the Tasume Case. I returned the one I purchased my purchased the device and will be ordering this one.

So, there are a lot of things I would like it to do, and many things I'm not sure that it can. my plan is to use it and adapt to it as best as I can. Heck, if in six months I don't like it, there's always eBay.