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An afternoon of happiness, wellbeing, calm, health navigation, and patient innovation

On Monday, March 25, 2013, I attended the Healthcare Experience Design Conference (hxd) in Boston, MA. The conference was attended by designers, technologists, product managers, researchers, entrepreneurs and patients who are passionate about improving the health care experience. This post is part two of a summary of the sessions I attended.

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin, author of Happiness at Home and the Happiness Project, offered her advice for happiness. Her resolutions are to get enough sleep, get exercise, jump, and enjoy your sense of smell. She said possessions are a source of joy and frustration. She asks herself: Do we use it? Do we love it? Do we need it? Her key to happiness are strong, long term relationships. She declared “Happy families have fun traditions.” You can discover more about Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and her experiments in the practice of everyday life at:

Considering the Whole Individual

Alexandra Drane of the Eliza Corporation discussed the challenges of life and how hard it can be to make important healthy behavior changes. Certain concerns that are the root of health conditions, but rarely get discussed at the doctor’s office. These “unmentionables” include sex, drugs, and a crappy boss. She said the top health problems in the US are in fact stress, sleep, care giving, money concerns, lack of support, relationship problems. People who report 4 or 5 unmentionables have the most health issues. Buffers, such as a strong network of peers, spirituality, and exercise, help. Patients who felt more vulnerable were less healthy, and felt less powerful. Her message encouraged attendees to apply this information as an industry and to build programs that increase buffers like social supports, spirituality, and exercise. Learn more about the unmentionables at:

Calming Technology

Neema Moraveji, from Stanford University, informed us that calm isn’t just about being relaxed. Calm is a restful alertness. He teaches a Designing Calm class at the Stanford Institute of Design. He led a guided meditation for the audience. He talked about Grok design, which means to understand or comprehend something. More on this at: He recommended identifying stressors, mitigating stressors, and designing with avoiding stress. He showed a variety of student projects, including a meditation, relationship, and mindful eating apps. He showed us Breathwear, a new technology to stream breathing data to your phone.

Health Navigation

Dan Brousseau of Emperia, asked, “are we ready to innovate the healthcare experience?” He said innovative organizations embrace risk and failure, show a natural bias towards customer needs and expectations, demonstrate extraordinary levels of collaboration across function and discipline, and experiment. Service experience values make people feel comforted, involved, safe, trusted, and important. Using a customer transformation model, Emperia sought to improve the experience for customers and employees, raise efficiency of experience delivery and align service design with hospital strategy. They shadowed service employees, and discovered that it is the health navigators who determine the experience. Cultivating the health navigator experience created one central contact to help coordinate the clinical experience.

Patient Innovators and Instigators

A panel of three patients shared their health journeys and the tools they created to advocate for their health. Ken Spriggs, a patient with Crohns Disease was inspired by ePatient Dave’s Ted Talk (Give Me My Damn Data, It inspired him to get all of his medical records and scan and make them searchable. Then, he compiled key data and charted it. The next patient, Lana asked what is needed – empathy, education, community and creativity. She cleverly mashed up social media sites to track her moods and maintain her health. She combined Social Me with Facebook to see what affected her moods, explored Four Square to see what places she loved the most, and used Instagram to card sort experiences. She left us with a powerful message – everyone can repurpose. Katie McCurdy shared her story of living with Myasthenia Gravis. She created a paper timeline of symptoms, medications and memories. She insightfully said, “memories are data, too”. Her closing remark encouraged us to assemble and visualize our patient stories.

Designing Work for Health and Profit

Martin Adler of Healthrageous, asked us, “Do we have a disease management problem or do we have a time management problem?” Since work is where most people spend the majority of our time, why not start at the workplace with healthy design solutions. He said the greatest health return is to reduce sitting time. He showed the workplace of the future, with treadmill and cycling desks. His vision for a healthy workplace includes increased access to windows and plants, access to free and convenient snacks, and a casual dress atmosphere to encourage more physical activity throughout the day. There was literally a picture of an elephant in his picture of the workplace of the future, which represented the possibility of sensors and tracking the health and physical activity of employees at the workplace. In my opinion, it would be great if more workplaces encouraged flexible work plans, gave daily wellness breaks, and provided healthy atmospheres with windows and plants. I’m not a fan of the tracking.

Patients Like Me

Jamie Heywood, chairman of PatientsLikeMe, delivered the final Keynote of the day. PatientsLikeMe helps patient share information on their health conditions to compare treatments, symptoms, and outcomes. It is a wealth of personalized research. He discussed different ways to measure medicine and interacting domains. He talked about the evolution of the site how measuring patients at the point of care for characteristics of intervention, environment, severity, and impact should be used to inform and help the next patient.


I left this conference feeling inspired. I left with dreams for the innovation of the healthcare experience. I left with a deeper understanding of the complex issues at the intersection of design and the healthcare experience. Design is not just for designers. Design is for everyone. Design helps us understand what motivates people, how to call people to action, and how to create an outstanding experience. I highly recommend this conference for anyone interested in a cross-disciplinary exploration into improving the healthcare experience. Thanks hxd 2013 for an amazing experience!

By Michelle Eberle, Consumer Health Information Coordinator

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