Monday, December 5, 2011

Massive Health’s Holy Trinity: Technology, Healthcare, and Design.

As a healthcare communications agency devoted to raising the bar on strategic and innovative thinking, Extrovertic has launched an initiative to explore how the principles of design can be employed to improve our processes, products, and daily agency lives ((see post date 11/28/11)). 

One of the first places we looked at during our design exploration was Massive Health, a startup dedicated to infusing design and technology into healthcare. Massive Health believes a new approach to tackling the healthcare crisis is needed. According to their website, Massive Health is about “making beautiful products that sit in your pocket and give you deep insight into your health conditions.” Massive Health turns “data into meaning, and make(s) that meaning actionable.”

They recently launched an iPhone app called “The Eatery,” which is designed to help people make lasting changes to their diet. Using an iPhone, people take pictures of everything they plan to eat, give it a simple rating (Fit or Fat), and submit. Massive Health’s wonderfully executed app makes it easy to adhere to the simple rules of healthy eating and to implement the basics of successful behavioral changes.

There’s also substantiation that this approach to eating works:

1.      Sharing your goals makes you more likely to accomplish them: With The Eatery, you can share your food selections with your friends and get their reactions. In addition to helping make you more accountable to your goals, your friends may help bust your personal food myths. For example, is that daily smoothie really healthy or, as their site suggests, is it “a sugar bomb?”

2.      Eating colorful foods is a must: In keeping with Michael Pollan’s belief that food needs to be colorful, The Eatery allows pictures of your meals to become part of a patchwork quilt that can you can evaluate in a glance. Is it bland and brown or full of orange, green, purple, and red?

3.      Making small sustainable lifestyle changes is more effective than strict dieting: By compiling your eating habits in pictures and easy-to-read colorful graphs, you are able to identify small self-defeating patterns. For example, is every coffee break accompanied by a cookie break too?

I compare this beautifully designed app to the tools my daughter was given by a nutritionist to ensure she eats 4,000 calories daily—the amount required for her to participate in competitive skating. Flora got a boring three-ring binder and a stack of what looked to be slightly off-kilter mimeographed sheets straight out of a 1960s health class. Only a highly motivated, disciplined athlete like my daughter would stick to that regimen. Her baby-boomer mom certainly wouldn’t!

Massive Health says on their blog, “this iPhone application offers a simple, beautiful approach to eating better.” This is quite an accomplishment; simplicity is something we aspire to but often encounter obstacles in attaining. As someone who has spent close to 2 decades banging the health literacy drum in Big Pharma, I know how hard it is to get the simple stuff through review committees. Bigger words and complex graphics are often more technically accurate, and therefore safer from a regulatory/legal point of view.

Deadlines loom, and the folders stack up. However, apps like The Eatery provide inspiration to push back just a little harder (perhaps there’s an app that can help us make small, sustainable review committee changes). Massive Health’s first foray into merging design principles and healthcare, raises the bar for all of us involved in healthcare communications.


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