I have the problem in my grasp

PUBLISHED ON  April 4, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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I didn’t expect to be so taken by Larry Smarr’s 10 years worth of clinical data he’s collected on himself — perhaps more than anyone before him — even though I knew it led to an important diagnosis and provides a view of the future patient.

I have the problem in my grasp

During the above demo at yesterday’s Quantified Self Public Health Symposium, he tells the story of how he has determined the relative amounts of various bacteria that live in the colons of healthy people, versus those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. His own “micriobiome” is on the left in red, and matches the blue pattern of Crohn’s disease, and not the green of ulcerative colitis or purple of normals. He, not his initial doctors, figured this out.

Few people have the resources to do what he’s done, but this takes nothing away from the power of the story and that’s the part I can’t stop thinking about. He has also 3D printed the segment of his colon affected by disease, held here by Susannah Fox:

larry-smarr-3d-colon-in-my-grasp

The picture directly above shows him holding the replica of his disease. “I have the problem in my grasp,” he says. This reminds me of the unstoppable passion we often see in parents of children with rare or undiagnosed diseases, and that one shouldn’t get between a mama bear and her cub. We have a tremendous opportunity in health care to tap into the motivation and innovation of patients and caregivers everywhere. Thank you, Larry, for the inspiration.

 

 

 

 

Listening at bedtime

PUBLISHED ON  March 20, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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At bedtime, my daughter and I sometimes play word or number games instead of reading. The other night, she suggested we play a variant of Pictionary, where one of us thinks of a word and tries to get the other to guess it by drawing it. She also suggested we make it harder by having the drawer keep her eyes closed. I jokingly responded, what if we have the guesser keep his eyes closed? That led us to invent a game where the guesser indeed keeps his or her eyes closed, and the drawer limits what they can draw — first we did single digit numbers. It was fascinating and tons of fun to learn to LISTEN to what each number sounds like when written in pencil. (Pencils make much better sounds than pens.) Numbers consistently vary by how many strokes and the cadence of how the strokes are combined — each has a personality. Since I cross my sevens, four and seven sound almost the same, but the final line in seven is crisper and shorter than the final line in four.

Listening at bedtime

We then had the nerve to guess which animal the other was drawing, limiting the options to a list of five. That was harder, but we learned to listen for a cat’s whiskers and a pig’s curly tail.

Here’s to being a better listener!

Empathy for patients AND doctors

PUBLISHED ON  March 12, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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We all know our health care system doesn’t work very well and that it often harms patients. A more subtle point is that for the same reasons, it harms doctors, who came to the profession to do more than they’re typically able to. We can talk about this so that patients and doctors have more empathy for each other.

Empathy is a key requirement for design thinking. Mutual empathy may be a formula for various kinds of collaborative design, but I can’t imagine a more important example than patients and doctors designing better health care together. Maybe an equally important example: patients and researchers better understanding each other and designing better research together. (Thank you Michael Seid for accidentally explaining this to me.)