Friday, October 4, 2013

Dr. Maria Hester, The Right App-titude

Dr. Maria Hester is a hospitalist (hospital-based physician) and the Principal of Savvier Health, LLC.  Dr. Hester joins Doctors Ketcherside and Creese in responding to the question, “What does healing mean to you?”

I am continually fascinated by these physicians who take an idea, bring it into fruition, and infuse that idea into every aspect of a brand.  For Dr. Hester, that means becoming a catalyst for or fostering patient empowerment whenever and wherever possible.  In her practice, her books, and her mobile apps, she encourages patients and families to:
1.       Take an active role in the healing process
2.      Learn how to communicate key information to physicians

Dr. Hester writes about empowerment in trade publications and blogs as well.  She is published on IMNG Medical Media, 913life,, and through Jennings Wire.  Her ideas behind empowerment have very much to do with the reasons she switched from pursuing a biomedical engineering degree at Purdue to medicine.  Initially, she resisted going into medicine though her father and brothers are physicians.  “I needed to talk to people, to ask them questions, to see their expressions, help them; yet, I wanted to still pursue my love of science.”  The direct contact with helping people was not there in biomedical engineering.  Medicine allowed her to combine all of the above.
This desire to better communicate with patients helped form her definition of healing.  “Healing is body, mind, and spirit.  It is one thing for a physician to prescribe a treatment or medication.  The science is crucial but the patient will more likely get a good outcome if the patient is compliant and believes in the potential results.  Patients will likely have better outcomes if they communicate effectively with their physicians and take their medications as prescribed.” This takes being active - a certain amount of savvy from the patient that leads to empowerment.

“Patients may not realize that their recovery or managing an illness can be much better,” remarked Dr. Hester.  The feedback she receives from patients helps her with increasing the useful inventory in her medical bag with, what she calls, a multi-pronged approach to healing. 

For example, a person goes to the doctor.  He may be given a questionnaire to fill out, but not really remember all the answers.  The doctor orders some tests.  Medication or treatment is prescribed.  He pays the bill and is out the door without serious understanding of how to get better.  “The patient has the ability to change that flow.”

I asked, “Is that how you see apps for mobile devices as being effective - in changing that flow?  I mean, you are spending a lot of time developing them.”
“Apps are part of our medical future.  Apps are fast.  Apps are easy.  You have access to information on the go, seconds here, minutes there.  Those seconds and minutes can save your life by helping you to learn many things about your health. “

“So, knowledge is a path to health empowerment,” I added.  “But people need a tool or two?”

“Yes.  Some patients do not know much about their condition or remember all of their medications.  It can be a headache for the providers.  It’s going to be a long time before doctors and nurses have universal access to medical records.  The apps are tools owned and controlled by the patient.” 

“What would an app do?”

“It should be encrypted.  It should have reminders.  Patients depend completely on the physician to call about results.   Before an appointment, a patient can record blood sugar readings, blood pressure, list of medications and dosages, new symptoms or questions that come up beforehand.” 
“Like the questions you forgot to ask?”

“Little tidbits of information add up that can make a difference in your health.”  The more relevant tidbits the better, a forgotten question is a tidbit that could be important.

Her current app is Patient Whiz. The app is owned by the user and helps to further empower users by giving them a way to input medical history, current concerns, medications, and appointments with audible alerts all in one place.  There are helpful external links as well.  

One function of the app which particularly caught my attention was the list of questions that helps app owners capture information about particular symptoms in a way that should be more useful to the physician. Take abdominal pain for example, the app takes the user beyond just the location of the pain.  The app guides the user to answer questions like:
- when did the pain start?
- what eases the pain?
- what makes it better?
- does it radiate? from where?

“The app enables the patient and doctor to move past so much back and forth in gathering the basic information and move to other meaningful exchanges.”  The app has useful links for the user to gain knowledge about conditions and medications as well.

The app offers a method of carrying key information when traveling, especially so in the case of those being treated for chronic conditions or undergoing treatment.  Users can print this information as well.

“Healing is a multi-pronged approach.”   There are forks in the road… choices.  Only a portion of those choices has to do directly with the medical and support staff.  “The patient must become more inquisitive, compliant, knowledgeable, and involved.”  These patient actions have a great deal to do with the road taken and where that road leads.  Dr. Hester’s mobile app, Patient Whiz, offers a method of assisting physicians and patients to develop options and make choices that keep them on the road to better health.  Patient Whiz is available on iTunes and will soon be available for Droid devices.   

Security Conference, Chicago, IL

The ASIS Conference was held in Chicago, IL, USA, September 24-27, 2013.  ASIS is the acronym for the American Society of Industrial Security.  However, ASIS is an international organization.  This was my first trip to ASIS.  It wasn’t on my original agenda but after hearing about six times, “Al, you should be there!” I decided I'd better go. 

I was traveling in Tennessee when I made that decision.  The decision required driving a car to catch a train to Chicago very early in the morning. It was pitch black.  My GPS announced with reassurance, “You have arrived.”  I looked to the left, darkness.  I looked in front of me, darkness beyond my headlights.  I looked to the right.  About 60 meters up a road the size of a bike path, I saw a light.  I thought, Surely not?  I drove up the path to a shelter.  I wouldn’t call it a trailer though it could be mistaken for one.  There was no visible sign of any activity. This was the train station.   Wait here two hours for a train…?  I travel with the capability to access two different major mobile carriers.  There was no signal on one and the other kept dropping my call.  I changed my reservations on my way to the next station.  Other than that, train service was great.

I arrived at ASIS late morning.  Registration was a breeze.  The staff was helpful though I never did actually find a booth number.  The conference really did help me begin to understand the security industry and its many aspects.  Exhibitors were great and offered many good contacts.  They taught me about some very interesting technologies and capabilities.  As always, it’s now a matter of converting some of those opportunities.