By Marie Szaniszlo
As co-founder and chief experience officer at Mad*Pow, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based company that has offices in Boston, Amy Cueva focuses on “human-centered” design that “involves people — the ones who’ll be affected by the solutions we create — in the creative process.”
But the health care industry is “a little behind” in how it uses design, Cueva said, because organizations such as hospitals and insurance companies, by their very nature, are risk-averse. So when she realized there was no forum that specifically addressed the overlap of health, design and technology, she created one.
This Wednesday and Thursday, about 500 designers, doctors, nurses and entrepreneurs from around the world will gather at the Westin Hotel in Boston’s Seaport District for the fifth Health Experience Refactored conference.
“In the health care industry, one of the most complex problems is getting people to change their behavior,” Cueva said. “We’re telling people they need to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, watch their blood pressure. But behavior change really involves the overlap of design, technology and psychology. What leads to lasting change is finding out what people really want in their lives.”
Cueva recalled one man who was diabetic and so overweight that he needed to use a wheelchair. He wanted to attend his daughter’s wedding, but it was going to be held on a beach, which wouldn’t be wheelchair- accessible.
“So we designed a digital diabetic weight-loss program in partnership with Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston,” she said. Mad*Pow took the classroom material from the center’s weight-loss program and put it online, with videos and a social network for diabetics in the program.
“It was effective in supporting diabetic weight-loss,” Cueva said. “Now, Joslin is exploring how to get that technology in the hands of other hospitals and clinicians so that it can help other patients.”
Another of the 50 speakers at the conference is Jon Michaeli of MediSafe, an Israeli startup that raised $6 million earlier this year to open new office space in Boston.
MediSafe created an iOS and Android mobile app and cloud-synced database to remind people when to take their medication and alert their family or caretaker if they did not.
“It’s really important to have a holistic approach,” Michaeli said.
Another keynote speaker, Dr. Darshan Mehta, medical director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, will focus on how stress affects health and how meditation can counter that stress. And, to help make his point, Mehta will lead the audience in a group meditation.
“This one will be unique, both in size and the number of savvy individuals with skepticism who’ll be there, which is good,” he said.
“I’m hoping people will see that while we’re talking about technological advances, let’s not forget about the simple stuff.”