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  • The Future of Healthcare? Entertainment

    The future of healthcare will be fueled by entertainment. And it won’t even be recognizable as “healthcare”. But rather just a part of our daily lives. While health content isn’t new, health entertainment is taking a new approach to stealthily improve our wellbeing as a byproduct of great storytelling. From Akili Interactive’s FDA approved video game to Headspace’s meditation Netflix show, the silos of health, entertainment and technology continue to break down, creating a new narrative for healthcare that meets consumers where they are: on their screens. Beyond “info-tainment” and educational programming, entertainment technologies are advancing to the point where great entertainment improves our health outcomes. Here are three ways entertainment is being leveraged to improve health outcomes: Worthy Wearables As wearable devices become more ubiquitous, health data will become overwhelming and meaningless without some sort of guidance. Communities exist that help members make sense of their data (see fitbit), but even with data visualization, wearables and the data they produce needs to be reconnected to the user’s daily life. Wearables will need to cultivate a storytelling space that helps users understand what’s happening to their bodies. Or transport users into a story world where their wearables play an intrinsic role in their journey. Alter Titan, a fitness RPG (Role Playing Game) that syncs with your wearable, is one of the forthcoming health entertainment experiences that is leaning heavily into storytelling to improve fitness. What’s next: Beyond fitness, we will see entertainment experiences emerge that blend wearables with storytelling, helping users improve their behavior for more complex conditions, like asthma or hypertension. Therapeutic Television Although Calm and Headspace have already given us streamable meditations, we will see TV programs be used to treat conditions. For instance, have you ever been deeply upset and were able to distract yourself, maybe even calm down, by finding an escape-worthy Netflix show? Or if you have young kids, perhaps you put on Bluey to help soothe your child after an unfortunate owie. Yes, I know TV is a great escape, but if TV can be just effective at calming us down as Xanax, then maybe we’re not far off from getting our health insurance to cover our Netflix subscriptions. What’s Next: as TV becomes more immersive, expect to enter your favorite shows and be able to explore them in AR. AR game play has already proven an effective tool to increase physical activity, so why limit it to games and instead let people explore their favorite TV shows. If I can go on a run with Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek or fight next to Geralt of Rivia, I wouldn’t consider it exercise. It would be a continuation of my favorite stories. It would be entertainment. Character Driven Healthcare Much like Disney and Phillip’s pediatric MRI collaboration, our favorite entertainment characters will start populating our healthcare experiences. Taking a cue from consumer products, health interventions will start featuring lovable characters and more fan worthy designs, being a part of our favorite story worlds. If we can have Mandolorian toothbrushes, surely we can have glucose monitors that look like they belonged to Bobba Fett. Entertainment licensing will start pushing the boundaries of health devices and care, making health less alienating and a lot more fan worthy. What’s Next: Entertainment companies taking an active role in healthcare. Beyond character licensing, entertainment companies will use their storytelling expertise to improve health engagement and create better health outcomes. Ultimately, the future of healthcare is up for grabs. As technology, policy and culture tries to navigate and solve the complexity of healthcare, it will be entertainment that provides the traction necessary for sustainable change and better health outcomes. Ari Mostov is a health entertainment producer. She is committed to scaling healing and changing behaviors through entertainment. She advises health companies on engagement and narrative while building scalable products that improve outcomes.

  • A New Hope for Healthcare Disruption

    Last week I was delighted to read Rock Health’s report on Healthcare’s Middle Children. Finally, some recognition of companies who could seriously disrupt healthcare, even if they aren’t tech titans and retail rainmakers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned working in healthcare, it’s that we can’t find all our solutions to our problems with the same thinking that led to those problems in the first place. We need to bust the silos of industry and find solutions from unlikely places. So when companies like Comcast, Netflix and Disney dip their toes into healthcare waters, we shouldn’t dismiss their efforts for bandwagon enthusiasm. Instead, we should embrace their boldness as potential breakthroughs that can truly stand on their own. But these disruptors need more than brand loyalty and great product design to navigate healthcare. Here are two ways healthcare disruptors can find their traction: 1. Create A New Health Narrative Healthcare continues to be plagued by complexity, fragmentation, and overall disengagement. While many healthcare companies work to improve their pieces of the puzzle, it’s time to look at the healthcare system from a new perspective. In fact, it’s time for a new healthcare narrative that flips the script on what healthcare can and cannot do. Disruptors from industries like entertainment, telecommunications and e-commerce have the unique advantage of seeing healthcare from a broader perspective: how does health fit into the world of their customer? Rather than forcing users into a healthcare story they have no control of, disruptors have a blank slate to work with, redefining healthcare as a compelling consumer experience and an essential part of daily life. 2. Design for a Social Experience We often forget how social we are as a species. The most disruptive companies can stimulate and/or satiate our social appetites — from movie dates, group chats to CRMs. We are social creatures, and anything we engage with needs to recognize and be a part of the human experience of interacting with others. Disruptors will need to leverage their insights to craft products and experiences that meet us where we are, bringing healthcare to us in our social lives. We’re not too far off from expanding “Netflix & Chill” to “Netflix & Lower Your A1c”. Industries like finance, retail and even end of life planning have become social experiences in today’s digital first world. We need healthcare to be a part of our social landscape, and disruptors will have a unique opportunity to bring their take on social designs for healthcare. Healthcare is ripe for disruption. Yet how do we ensure disruption leads to sustainable transformation and a new healthcare reality? While I have some ideas, my hope is that with new disruptors in healthcare, we will see innovations that aren’t stymied by healthcare’s tiring legacy. Instead, new thinking and designs will find their traction and we can finally have a healthcare experience we can all enjoy.

  • Hollywood Magic for Healthcare

    As an award-winning TV, film and game producer, leaving Hollywood for healthcare may seem like a bizarre choice. Why trade celebrity studded events for CMS reimbursement codes? With no medical degree, and only screen credits to my name, I struggled to embrace my unique background. However, the more time I spent in the healthcare ecosystem, the more I realized that the cure for what ails healthcare is Hollywood Magic. Beyond the complexity of the US healthcare system, I believe that healthcare itself struggles with its story. Fortunately, Hollywood has a history of transforming culture and shifting paradigms through the power of stories. If something needs a new story, look no further than Hollywood. Here are Three Lessons from Hollywood that I frequently share with my healthcare clients when they need to rethink their healthcare story: 1.Character Driven Narrative Too often, disease is the protagonist of the healthcare story. Rather than empowering health seekers on their quest for better health, the healthcare system starts driving the plot, forcing patients into a story they have no control of. How can we expect health seekers to overcome obstacles when we limit them to powerless side characters rather than heroes? By focusing on the main character — the health seeker — rather than just the disease or condition they are living with, healthcare becomes less punitive, more compelling and easier to relate to. Patients aren’t diseases. They are people. Protagonists. Characters. And it’s healthcare’s job to center them as they pursue their quest for better health. 2. User Generated Content (UGC) Healthcare organizations have failed to leverage UGC. Yet millions of people use Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to chronicle their health journeys and find community. From ostomy fashion friendly tips to medication management videos, health seekers are creating their own content, showing the reality of health and healthcare. UGC can demystify the complexities and terrors of healthcare, while also providing space for conversations and communities. Just as UGC is used by Hollywood to nurture fans and remain in dialogue with audiences, Healthcare organizations are missing their chance to meet health seekers where they are and be a part of their daily lives. 3. Know Your Audience Too often films and TV shows are made without considering their target audience. A beloved franchise can be decimated by one wrong mistake from Hollywood elites, such as choosing a different leading actor or switching the plot from the source material. Audiences are the life force of entertainment. For healthcare organizations, many focus on solutions without knowing their audience. Pharma can spend millions on a new drug, getting regulatory approval and payor agreement, only for health seekers to refuse to use it. Digital health companies can create new applications that have no user engagement and therefore no impact on health outcomes. Healthcare is unusual in that it has many audiences it must engage with — from regulators, providers, to patients — but that doesn’t negate the importance of knowing your audience and meeting your audience in the story they’re in. Healthcare will continue to be a struggle — just ask Google and Apple — but now is the time to reevaluate the healthcare narrative and see how we can learn from other industries to find lasting, scalable solutions. Everybody deserves a healthcare experience that is as easy as going to the movies or scrolling through social media feed. What’s stopping your company from embracing a new narrative for health? Ari Mostov is a health entertainment pioneer. She is committed to scaling healing and changing behaviors through entertainment. She advises health companies on engagement and narrative strategy.

  • What if Disney did Healthcare?

    What if Disney did healthcare? I spent three years asking health executives this very question. Many found the question intriguing, but impossible to realize. Why would the most beloved brand in the world be crazy enough to take on healthcare? Well, why not? This past spring, Phillips and Disney announced a partnership to bring Disney’s beloved characters into the MRI experience. The program is being launched in six pediatric units across Europe and is Disney’s first foray into clinical research. One of the most beloved brands in the world, Disney’s prowess stems from their incredible storytelling capabilities. Disney has cracked the code for audience affinity and brand loyalty, using character-driven narratives to create generations of fans who can interact with their stories whenever and however they want. By leveraging its most valuable asset — characters — Disney is breaking down the walls of health stigma and siloization, helping create a new health experience that could transform the way we interact with our health. No longer will healthcare be scary, alienating and disempowering. Instead, our favorite Disney characters will incorporate health into our lives through interactive storytelling, innovative consumer experiences and character driven narratives. While Phillips and Disney work together to make MRIs a more tolerable experience, here are some ways Disney could expand its reach in health: Storylines Media representation is a powerful tool, one that Disney understands well. Disney’s show Doc MacStuffins is frequently praised for its positive health behavior modeling and accessible, empowering storylines for preschool age kids. Hopefully, Disney is expanding its slate to include more characters and stories set in the health space to help demystify complex health topics, like the immune system and chronic conditions. Health Visits There’s been a bit of discussion about what healthcare can learn from theme parks, but beyond experience design, there’s a massive opportunity for Disney’s characters to be a part of our health visits. Would kids be more excited to get their booster shots if they were administered by Elsa from Frozen? Would we be willing to withstand long wait times if there was an interactive exhibit on The Mandalorian in the waiting room? I believe in a future where our visits to the doctor’s office are a lot less anxiety inducing and a lot more enthralling if we’re able to incorporate our favorite characters into the mix. Medical Devices and Procedures While there are some consumer health products featuring our favorite Disney characters (Moana toothbrush, anyone?) I believe we will start seeing more medical devices and procedures being reimagined to be more character driven and a part of our favorite worlds. Trade in your boring inhaler for the same model used by Buzz Lightyear. Or maybe the next time you get an Xray, you can hang out with Miguel from Coco in VR. The possibilities are endless, and although these ideas are fun to tinker with, we can only measure their value based on their ability to improve health outcomes. Will Disney and Phillips’ bet pay off? We’re still waiting on results for that one, but if any company has what it takes to transform healthcare into a more engaging, consumer friendly experience, it’s going to be Disney.

  • Health in the Metaverse

    As the Metaverse transforms from trendy nerd-speak to must-have strategy, conversations dominate our social spaces about joining the Metaverse and what that means for work, retail and brands. Surely, the extension of our physical reality into a limitless virtual expanse must be powered strictly by consumerism and labor. That’s the only way we can make the Metaverse work, right? Perhaps, but as companies duel over virtual real estate and avatar fashion, I think about how the Metaverse will serve our basic needs. Without the limits of physical reality, what will we now have the ability to solve? Here are a few possibilities of how the Metaverse could help us solve one of our biggest, most complex challenges: healthcare Therapeutics Right now, mental and physical therapies have been extended into the virtual space with the use of VR headsets and some AR experiences. With the emerging metaverse, we will see therapeutics breaking out of their individual patient experiences and becoming a socially driven experience. The Metaverse provides a potentially safer alternative for health seekers to practice their therapies in social situations and interact with others, putting theory into practice without physical danger. Imagine a teenager struggling with social anxiety. They can enter the Metaverse and practice their social skills with other (virtual) individuals, all from the comfort and safety of their own home. Neuroplasticity and Behavior Change The Metaverse provides a malleable space for individuals to modify their behaviors. No longer limited to our physical reality, the Metaverse will host experiences that can rewire our neural pathways, accelerating healing and behavior change. I think of EMDR therapy, which uses bilateral rhythms to stimulate both sides of the brain to help heal old memories. This therapy could be blended into something more innocuous, like a virtual concert or group meditation. As the Metaverse expands, so do the opportunities for healing. Health Characters My favorite vision for health in the Metaverse is Health Characters. As reality ends and a new one begins, we will no longer be limited to the physically tangible. In the Metaverse, the microscopic concepts of health come to life. Meet the Red blood cell and explore its physical anatomy, join your White blood cells in a battle against Streptococcus, dance with your neurons as you learn a new shuffle step. These Health Characters will be as lively as your favorite Disney heroes, but instead of whisking you away to escapism, they help you understand how your own body works. Yes, this is one part Fantastic Voyage, one part Osmosis Jones — but it’s all doable in the Metaverse. From educational purposes to entertainment, we can finally interact with the tiniest aspects of our health. No longer will we be strangers to our own bodies, but instead we’ll be intimately involved with our own anatomy and able to advocate for our health with deeper understanding and conviction. That’s one of the driving forces why I created my mobile AR game Virus Hunters — to introduce players to their own health. I strongly believe that health literacy and health outcomes can improve if we reframe health as a character driven experience, blending interactive entertainment with accessible health knowledge. Ultimately, the Metaverse will make health more social and less prescriptive. It will be experiential, interactive and dare I say it, even fun?

  • Big Tech Won't Solve Healthcare

    Another one bites the dust And another one gone, another one gone…. Google Health has called it quits on a unified strategy to target healthcare, again shifting their health priorities to realign with their existing business divisions. This comes after reports that Apple is stepping back from a key health project, adding to the long list of Big Tech ambitious health plans coming to a screeching halt since the beginning of 2021. Big Tech might have given us ubiquitous digital experiences, but it’s not going to fix healthcare on its own. Big Tech doesn’t have the right story. Beyond the tangled web of US Healthcare policy, regulations and reimbursements, healthcare is a human-driven system. We’re dealing with humans, who are tricky, irrational, biased, individuals with specific needs and desires. Unlike machines, which can be solved with a simple “input-process-output” approach, humans need more than logic sequences. We need a healthcare narrative that we can call all our own. We are creatures of stories and the current healthcare experience will not be improved just with technology. So how will it be improved? How can we truly disrupt healthcare? Let’s look at today’s announcement from Headspace and Ginger. The two mental health companies are merging to form Headspace Health -- combining the story-driven experience of Headspace’s meditations with Ginger’s telehealth technology to deliver mental healthcare across the spectrum. Headspace has thrived because it delivers therapeutic benefits through story-driven content. Its entertainment partnerships and collaborations with the likes of John Legend, Sesame Street and Netflix redefine mental health as part of our daily lives, rather than sequestered into the corner of “disease” and “unwell”. Paired with Ginger’s telehealth interventions, I am confident Headspace Health will continue to create a new narrative for mental health; one that everyone feels they can be a part of. That’s the thing Big Tech is missing. We could have all this fancy technology at our fingertips but that doesn’t change the health story we’re in. Healthcare’s current story is narrated by health professionals -- as it should -- but without the co-ownership of patients. Who wants to be involved in a story they have no say of? Headspace’s meditation invites users to come along in the story. It disguises health concepts into easy, actionable entertainment. Headspace and other Health Entertainment properties are able to improve our wellbeing, without the punitive “do this or you’ll die” narrative that turns us off from listening to healthcare professionals in the first place. While Big Tech scrambles to salvage their healthcare efforts, my eyes are on Health Entertainment companies like Headspace Health who will bust the silos of health, entertainment and technology to truly disrupt healthcare and give Americans a consumer friendly health experience unrivaled by Big Tech.

  • Why Everyone Needs a Doctor in Their Pocket

    I have always had a doctor in my pocket. Which Over the Counter (OTC) allergy med is the best if I don’t want to be drowsy? Text Dad. My best friend was just diagnosed with a rare disease. Call Dad. Do we need to go to the ER? Facetime Dad. My dad is the doctor in my pocket. As an MD PhD professor at one of the best research medical centers in the world, having his expertise available — at no charge — is like having a skeleton key to the whole health care system. I can open any door and be greeted with open arms. For the first 26 years of my life, I lived in a blissful bubble of rapid treatment, cordiality and ease. And I thought everyone experienced healthcare the way I did. Surely everyone else had a doctor in their pocket, too? No. Not even close. Fast forward to last week when I was in the ER for an infection. The waiting room was packed with panicked patients, desperate for answers and care. I saw spouses trying to console their loved ones with dementia as they waited to be triaged, kids crying in pain and fear, the tired eyes of people trying to figure out where to go in the hospital. I sat calmly in my chair, trusting the ER department, knowing that a two-hour wait to be seen by the attending was typical. I had my powerbank for my phone, access to wifi, wrote my symptoms down chronologically, a list of medications ready for the nurse. I was unafraid, not because I knew I was getting treatment, but because all my healthcare experiences till now have been positive. I could articulate my ailments, I could understand the doctor’s shorthand, I could let them know my needs and I could always call dad. Everyone else didn’t have that same privilege. As I went through the ER, being tested, seen, diagnosed, and treated, I had the power and confidence that I was in control. If I didn’t understand something, I would ask my dad for his opinion. Did I need blood cultures? Yes. Were the antibiotics ordered the right kind? Yes. My dad, the doctor in my pocket, wasn’t concerned about my insurance coverage or history. He just wanted me to get the best treatment. And so did the care providers. Yet, as a patient with the knowledge and confidence to navigate the ER, the care I received was a little less patronizing. A little more on equal footing than the treatment I saw of the other patients who were lost in the system. I had an advocate in my pocket. What did they have? Today, even with the best care options and fierce patient advocacy communities, if you are not a member of the health literati you are an outsider. You are powerless in a system that even health professionals struggle to navigate. With the many silos, bureaucratic obstacles, and competing interests, it is near impossible to care for ourselves in such a broken system. As new health technologies and innovations deploy, I can’t help but wonder if they will really be able to solve the biggest issues in healthcare? Who will advocate for us? Who will help us find the solutions when we are at our worst? While technologists continue to unleash new features, trinkets and shiny bright objects claiming to alleviate our healthcare woes, most of us will never know what it’s like to have a doctor in our pocket. Until now. At WellPlay, it is my mission to scale healing. Everyone deserves to have a doctor in their pocket. Everyone deserves to be empowered in their own health and wellbeing. With a focus on digital self-care, health engagement and bodily integrity, I use entertainment to improve health outcomes. I invite you to follow me along this journey. Together we can create a new narrative for health.

  • Why Gamification Won’t Solve Treatment Adherence

    Browsing the App Store for treatment adherence applications, you will find dozens of products. While many boast appealing user interfaces and encouraging pop up notifications, these health application s do not solve the problem they were designed for: adherence. And while there are many nuances to the challenges of treatment adherence, I believe one of the biggest struggles is the lack of user engagement. People aren’t motivated to use these apps. Many have tried to remedy user disengagement by borrowing techniques from the gaming industry. And who can blame them when there’re over 2 billion mobile gamers worldwide? But even then, treatment adherence apps with gamification features such as Wellth and Mango Health haven’t broken through the noise. Gamification won't solve treatment adherence. Not on its own. Many digital health technologists are eager to add leaderboards and levels to their apps, but they are still missing the key ingredient for a successful experience: the story. Let’s step back and look at adherence from a larger perspective. Taking your medication properly is a loaded task. It’s not as simple as turning on the TV or texting with your friends. It has a lot of emotional baggage. If we’re receiving treatment, there must be something wrong with us, or why would we need it in the first place? Taking medication as directed requires an acknowledgement that something needs to change. A decision that is usually overwhelming and hard to understand when you’re not an MD. Having an application populate your screen with digital confetti each time you take a pill seems like a poor band-aid to a bigger, deeper issue. Gamified adherence apps know that dopamine rushes are useful, but they’re missing the bigger issue: the emotional journey. What’s the relevance of taking your treatment today? How does it help you? Why do you need this treatment in the first place? What’s the story? For health seekers in a treatment program, chances are the story that you’re in sucks. It’s not fun, it’s disempowering and it makes you feel like a failure. But what if your treatment adherence program immersed you in a new story? One where you feel capable, connected and confident? Ask any gamer why they play games and they’ll give you a slew of answers--fun, friendship, world building, challenge etc. In games, players have the agency and power to make their own decisions, exploring their story world with others and gradually progressing in skill set and achievement. Medication adherence is the total opposite: patients are victims of disease; unsure if the treatment will work and if they’re making progress. Health is an abstract concept, irrelevant if we don't understand what’s wrong and how the treatment will fix it. As we seek new, better solutions for treatment adherence its time to consider what story health seekers are experiencing. How can digital health apps improve comprehension and confidence? Instead of relying on gamification to solve adherence, we need to look at the treatment experience through the eyes of a game player; building an experience that activates agency, encourages world exploration and allows players to be the heroes of their health story.

  • Social+ Health

    Digital health is anti-social. No one likes today’s digital health products and platforms. Digital health doesn’t fit into our digital landscape of likes, comments and shares. Unlike TikTok, Fortnite and rising sensation Clubhouse, digital health doesn’t provide us with the opportunity to come together and be human. All too often, users will download a digital health app, maybe preview its features, and never return. I personally have over a dozen health apps I downloaded but never opened. I like the idea of digital health — who doesn’t? — but digital health products themselves are a flop. It’s time for health to become Social+. Social+ companies take a category — games, commerce, music, etc. — and build an integrated social experience around it. As D’Arcy Coolican of a16z put its “the best version of every consumer product is one that’s intrinsically social”. So how do we make Social+ health? 1. Move beyond data and information Health apps are too often experienced as charts and numbers, a big turn-off. Health information remains sterile and disengaging; data is pointless if there’s no context. Yet when health information is contextualized into understandable, social forms of health content — such as viral videos, sharable graphics and quick posts — we’re able to reach broader audiences and have health become a part of a larger social context. Social platforms like YouTube are recognizing the importance of better health messaging and have launched their new health content program — featuring videos from the leading health partners. An example of health content. However, health content is just the first step in making health Social+, as it only raises awareness. Awareness alone doesn’t necessarily generate a social experience. 2. Create a safe space for health stories As social creatures, our brains are built for stories. Social+ health is driven by stories — stories that are personal and relatable, vulnerable and inspiring. When we share our stories of health and healing, we are connecting with our communities and breaking down the barriers that make health so disenfranchising. Apps like MyHealthTeams and The Mighty facilitate safe places for health seekers to share their stories with others who can relate, offer support or simply acknowledge each others’ experience. 3. Build relationships that promote healing While health stories help us relate to each other and feel less alone, it’s our relationships that sustain us on our health journeys. Having a relationship with someone who is a part of our health journey provides us with the interaction we so desperately crave as social creatures. We cannot heal alone. We need relationships to navigate the difficulties of disease and ailments. We need the give and take of relating with one another, the dialogue and the companionship of other humans to keep going when healing proves difficult. Digital health products that feature these sorts of relationships such as Omada’s health coaches are able to make health social, but not necessarily Social+. 4. Create Consumer products are only really Social+ when they activate the most social of all activities: creating. Whether you’re creating new stories for Instagram, new worlds within Fortnite or new fashion accessories in augmented reality, humans are most social when we can create and express ourselves. A truly Social+ digital health product will act as a canvas for health seekers to create and share new health experiences, solutions and realities. Just look at Social+ companies like TikTok and Instagram. They boast billions of views for health creations, allowing a new narrative for health to emerge: a socially driven, empowering journey of healing that is no longer victim to stigma, but rather another opportunity to bond, relate and create. As digital health becomes more ubiquitous, we will see digital health companies try and manufacture social interactivity around their health products. But they will falter until they transform their health data and information into compelling content, provide a space for sharing stories, cultivate relationships that support healing and allow health seekers the opportunity to create. Only then will digital health reach Social+ status.

  • Can Amazon Fix Adherence? Part 1

    Amazon announced the long anticipated debut of Amazon Pharmacy. Although many are clamoring over Amazon’s pharmacy disruption, there’s a key issue missing from the noise: adherence. At the end of the day, a pharmacy is about delivering care to health seekers, usually through medications and treatments; and those treatments only work as well as the patients’ adherence to them. Non-adherence has plagued healthcare, and even with advances in technology, an estimated 50% of people with chronic disease still aren’t taking their meds properly. While many cite cost and convenience as the prime barriers to adherence, there is one obstacle that even Amazon will struggle with: trust. Non-adherence is a complicated, multifaceted issue but we can break these challenges into three broad categories. Cost In the US Healthcare system, medication costs lack transparency. The difficulty of understanding why a medication costs what it does with or without insurance continues to be a barrier to many health seekers. Only in America do people have gofundme campaigns to help cover the costs of insulin or chemo. The costs isn’t just limited to drug pricing, but the cost of facilitating healthy living, many of which are considered social detriments of health, such as lack of safe and healthy housing, groceries and transportation. Amazon is tackling drugs costs with their Amazon Prime prescription savings, offering prime members discounts through a partnership with Inside Rx for savings of up to 80% off generic and 40% off brand name medications. Capability Many treatment plans require tedious regimens and methodologies. Polypharmacy aside, medication management can be difficult for health seekers who struggle with self-efficacy of treatments: such as difficulties opening pill bottles, measuring doses, and remembering to take medications on time. For health seekers, the ability to take their medications as prescribed depends not only on their own capabilities but also the convenience of treatment options. Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack in 2018 means they will be offering personalized packaging to help ease the taking of medication. Amazon’s Alexa has also piloted prescription refill programs, so users can simply ask Alexa to have the pharmacy fill their RX. Paired with prime delivery and Alexa reminders, medication adherence should be easy enough…right? But, as many of us know, just because drugs are easily available, doesn’t mean you will take them as you should. Comprehension Comprehension is a broader term that encompasses health literacy, patient education, self-management, and contextualized understanding. Basically, how do providers respond to the statement “I don’t want to take my meds” and others like it. Facilitating treatment comprehension that responds to a health seeker’s concerns, allows health seekers to be fully informed and in control of their own health decisions. And while medication information is abundant, medication comprehension is not. Amazon’s Alexa already provides medication information, and surely the Amazon Pharmacy web content is inspired by Amazon’s best retail content strategies, with plenty of information and data to help communicate the medication’s purpose… but is that enough? No. It’s not. Even if Amazon is able to minimize drugs costs and maximize the convenience of medications, they will not be able to fix adherence. Amazon will try to squeeze patient comprehension into their pharmacy offering, but it won’t be nearly as effective as other care providers that were designed with health education in mind — such as Omada and Virta. Even with their Halo and Alexa consumer products, and now their new pharmacy service, Amazon is missing the most valuable part of the adherence equation: trust. Trust Trust, which can be considered the ultimate form of health comprehension, is the belief that what you are prescribed will help you and is for the best. It’s built on human relationships: the give and take between provider and seeker, the listening, advocating and comprehension of what actions serve the health needs of the seeker. Human relationships are cultivated when promises are kept, concerns are heard and dialogue is continuous. Ask any health seeker today and they will tell you of an experience where their health provider did not listen to them…who’s to say Alexa can do better? While many are predicting that Amazon will soon launch their telehealth platform for consumers, I’m skeptical that consumers will want Amazon branded care providers so intimately involved in their lives. Perhaps we will see Amazon health providers available through Amazon Prime/Chime/Care, but I know I would personally associate any Amazon employee with the negative press around Bezos’ employee treatment and the lower skill level of most consumer facing Amazon employees, like delivery drivers. My assumptions are guided by sentiment, not necessarily logic and I wager that many other consumers will feel the same way too. At the end of the day, what’s the point of the pharmacy? To deliver care. And care can be as complicated, nuanced and intricate as each individual health seeker. Even if there is no one size fits all solution for adherence, Amazon will not be able to fix adherence if they continue to ignore the importance of health comprehension and trust, neglecting the human relationships that foster lasting change. Stay tuned for the part 2 of this series to see how Amazon can leverage their existing ecosystem to scale trust and tackle adherence.

  • Why Your Mental Health App Needs Content.

    Digital mental health companies need a content strategy to engage today’s screen-first health seeker. In an increasingly saturated market, telemental health demand is only growing. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace have already set the content stakes high, with Calm launching their A World of Calm TV series on HBO Max and Headspace hiring John Legend as their Chief Music Officer. Wellness focused brands like Calm and Headspace know they are competing for audiences attention when we much rather watch The Office than try and meditate for 5 minutes. And their content strategy is working. Calm boasts 90M downloads and Headspace is close behind. But what about the more clinically backed mental health platforms like Lyra or Talkspace? These platforms provide important therapies for health seekers, ranging in intervention levels from telepsychiatry to support groups. Therapeutic mental health applications help connect health seekers with health services, but as soon as the therapy session is complete, what then? I know from my own experience with mental health, that therapy is only one part of the healing journey. The hard work you do with your counselor or in group doesn’t mean anything if you can’t use those insights in the real world and actually make changes for the better. Most of my sessions in therapy ended with a new insight — a new learning. But new learning does not equal new outcomes. New behaviors do. And behavior change is hard. It requires constant feedback. Some mental health apps address this with behavior coaching, but not everyone can afford a behavior coach for their pandemic induced anxiety, depression or complicated comorbidities. Nor does coaching work for everyone. I think back to a friend of mine who was receiving DBT treatment several years ago. DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, was developed by Marsha M. Linehane for treatment resistant forms of mental illness, such as individuals with high levels of suicide ideation or borderline personality disorders. My friend was in group therapy, individual therapy and in and out of residential treatment programs until she was admitted into a DBT program. On top of the therapy sessions and psychopharmacology consults, she had a workbook that she used daily. A DBT exercise workbook that helped reenforce her new learnings from her most recent therapy session. The exercises were social, reflective and, surprisingly, empowering. These sheets of paper were able to sustain the new learning from her therapy sessions, making the DBT therapy stick and ultimately helping her develop new skills and behaviors to help her manage her mental health. So how would teletherapy apps deliver the most value — the most impact — from a 45 minute conversation between a health seeker and provider? The answer? Content. Not just marketing content, intended to sell the product, but content that makes the experience worth repeating. Content that supports new learning and helps transform that new learning into new behaviors. Content that is able to engage health seekers with a story that is compelling. Content that is relevant to their health journey, but not prescriptive or pedantic. Content that meets the health seeker where they are. Content that is as frictionless and engaging as streaming TV shows or a popular podcast. The most competitive and truly transformational mental health applications will not only provide therapeutic interventions such as teletherapy, but will provide a health entertainment experience that uses content to support health seekers and enable lasting behavior change. Earlier this week Lyra Health announced their partnership with Calm to provide stress reducing content to their members. Lyra already provides therapy solutions for their members, but now they can continue to support their members outside the therapy sessions with curated content from Calm. I will be eagerly watching to see how the Calm content affects Lyra’s members and if, at all, it improves their health outcomes. As more of our health experiences become digital, digital mental health apps will not only be competing against each other, but competing in a digital landscape dominated by content first platforms such as Netflix and TikTok. Many of these platforms already have mental health initiatives in place, acknowledging that our mental health doesn’t disappear when we’re scrolling through our feeds. Perhaps, soon, we will see digital mental health companies trade in their DSM manuals for screenplays as they bolster their content strategies and start competing for our attention in our content dominated world. Until then, I know I will continue receiving mental health support from an unlikely source: TikTok.

  • Healthy Entertainment

    It’s no secret that the most popular health and wellness apps feature video content. “Six out of ten of the top Health & Fitness apps are apps that offer video workouts or video-guided exercises,” according to Apptopia’s The Future of Fitness Report. With applications like Fitbit featuring premium health videos from celebrities to mental wellness app Calm debuting their A World of Calm TV series on HBO Max, the best of health apps not only feature tools to improve your health, but content to sustain engagement and deliver better value. These health content offerings transform the health fitness experience into one worth repeating. Health videos help eliminate friction, reframing information into a format as digestible as Netflix. Our generation of screen-first health seekers crave content that fits our lifestyle of binges, TikTok challenges and Zoom. Health-fitness exercises are a lot more inviting when your favorite YouTuber is guiding you through a yoga set, rather than a doctor blabbing “you need to exercise more”. But, the only people watching health fitness videos are those who are seeking to improve their fitness. What about those of us who find physical activity too hard or discouraging? Not all of us have the patience or even interest to try meditation or CrossFit. I believe there is something more engaging than a well-crafted fitness video. You could have Batman leading me through a HIIT set and I would still find a reason to not watch it. But put on a Batman movie (preferably Christian Bale’s batman), and I’ll spend nearly 3 hours glued to the screen. Where’s the happy medium? Imagine content that is entertaining and enduring. You watch from beginning to end, captivated by the character and story. But at the end of the 30 minute episode, you’ve managed to improve your health and well-being, and perhaps break a little sweat. Sounds implausible. But it’s not. Just take a look at the Cosmic Kids Yoga. With nearly 1M subscribers, close to 200M+ views, this health entertainment studio founded by Jamie Amor, invites viewers to immerse themselves in the story, physically participating in the character’s narrative through yoga moves. After 30 minutes of participatory entertainment, I found myself appreciating the visceral necessities of a good story with the Frozen Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventure. Cosmic Kids Yoga is able to improve health by cleverly focusing on character driven narrative, leveraging our natural love for stories to turn our intent into action. We are immersed in an entertaining experience, not recognizing that healthy side effects. Cosmic Kids Yoga takes something of leisure and fun and is able to produce better health outcomes. Now what if more of our screen time was spent being entertained but also improving our well-being? While apps like Fitbit will continue to create health how-to videos, and health care providers will try to catch up to the content revolution, there’s a growing need for something better and more sustainable. If kids can spend 15 minutes playing as their favorite cartoon character and improving their well-being, why can’t the rest of us immerse ourselves in our favorite stories and come out healthier? Why limit ourselves to health how-to videos when we can join our favorite characters, like Batman, in an adventure that ultimately makes us healthier? At WellPlay, we’re doing just that. We believe that entertainment can improve health outcomes. As a health entertainment company, we use character driven narrative and immersive technologies to transform health into a fan-worthy experience. Join us on our adventure at WellPlay.World

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