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  • 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

  • Making Digital Health Stick

    Consumer digital health products have utterly failed to reach the same level of user engagement that we see in social media, gaming and entertainment. Let’s look at today’s most popular digital products: TikTok: 800 million monthly users Fortnite: 350 Million players Netflix : 182 Million subscribers While there’s been an increase in demand for digital health products and services during the COVID-19 lockdown, consumer facing digital health companies struggle to attract and retain users, especially as the market becomes more saturated. How can consumer digital health companies create products that users actually want to use, over and over again? It's time to stop thinking like Steve Jobs and start creating like Steven Spielberg. In today's content obsessed world, consumer digital health companies continue to ignore what consumers really want: We want character driven narratives, not shiny, new wearables. We want user generated content, not another digital health service with “better” UX/UI. We want socially active platforms, not another mobile health app with a novel gamification feature. But more than anything, we want a new narrative for the healthcare experience. And right now, consumer digital health has the perfect opportunity to co-create with users a new healthcare narrative for the mobile-first generation. A new health narrative that empowers users, activates their agency and reframes health as a community driven experience. I’m reminded of the recent success of TikTok’s mental health content. TikTok provides a platform for user generated videos that are simultaneously personal and communal. Anyone struggling with their own mental wellbeing can find personal anecdotes, useful tips and resources in an easy to digest format by simply searching #MentalHealthAwareness. There, mental health advocates share their experiences and learning with their viewers, providing users with opportunities to take their first steps on their personal mental health journey. By creating their own content, TikTok allows individuals to reclaim their autonomy, re-center themselves as the protagonists of their health journey and re-establish the universal experience of being human. As of June 11th, with a quick glance at my TikTok discovery page, there are 1.4 billion views of the #mentalhealthawareness hashtag. Can you imagine the same consumer engagement for digital health products that manage diabetes or improve medication adherence? In fact, with a quick search for #diabetes, I found over a half a billion views of user generated diabetes related content on TikTok. To say TikTok is doing something right, is an understatement. Moving Forward As digital health companies develop their user engagement strategies for a crowded market, it’s time they re-evaluate their user experiences and product designs to see how they can best serve consumers that crave autonomy, self-expression and content. Only then will digital health care companies succeed in attracting and retaining users. Only then will we be able to see the full potential of consumer digital health.

  • Fearless Fans

    Originally Published Feb 1st 2019 Building a Fandom for Global Health What Makes A Fan? I am fortunate enough to be married to a self-identified fan boy. The type of person who squeals when a new comic book is released, writes pages upon pages of fan fiction, and regularly bonds with strangers over their shared love for a character (Dr. Strange). Fans have a religious-like zeal for their favorite characters and worlds. Just look at Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Avengers...the list goes on. And yet, what is it that really makes a person a fan? Levels of Engagement and Interactivity I believe fans are the most interactive audiences of entertainment franchises. They don’t merely sit and observe. They collaborate, they build, they share and they create new experiences based upon the franchise’s characters and cannon. Rather than passively consume media, they become involved—going beyond the screen or page and continuing the story. They co-create. Using the characters, cannon and world as inspiration, fans continue to play – be it through fan fiction, community discussion, art, costumes, gatherings, merchandise – anything to capture the initial emotional and sensational experiences they had when they first fell in love with the characters and their worlds. Co-Creators for Global Health Solutions Now what if we applied the same concepts from entertainment-based fandoms to issues like global health? How could we leverage fans to co-create experiences—even solutions—for serious global issues like pandemics or cardiovascular disease? I believe that with relatable characters and compelling narratives, we can cultivate fans of global health. The type of people who no longer feel like bystanders, but rather become engaged and eager to learn, create and play. Global health doesn’t need to be an insurmountable obstacle where only a select few can rise to the challenge. It can be a community of fans—co creators—eager to interact with health at both a personal and community level. You don’t have to be a doctor to care about global health. You don’t have to have a PhD to stop the spread of disease. You can be a fan – committed to doing your part for the characters, cannon and world. We created our AR mobile game Virus Hunters using character driven narrative, health alert data and co-creative game play to foster players into fans. Fans who feels empowered and eager to participate in global health. Fans who practice bodily integrity and implement health literacy for better public health practices. Fans who advocate for their health and the health of others. If that’s not worth being a fan about…then what is?

  • Healthy Fans Part 1

    Originally published May 6th 2019 Health lacks trust. Direct To Consumer (DTC) health care is revolutionizing the way people engage with their health. Rather than being limited to the boundaries of a doctor-patient relationship – where patients are rendered nearly powerless in their healthcare decisions due to lack of knowledge, information and choices– patients are now becoming empowered consumers. Consumers who are engaged, informed and able to exercise their own choices about health. Yet as consumers navigate a new world of DTC health services there is still one key ingredient missing from this industry: trust. As a health literacy and bodily integrity advocate, I am committed to fostering agency and empowering people with information and choice when it comes to their bodies. I am determined to cultivate (well earned) trust between people and their healthcare providers. Yet still I find the DTC health industry is struggling with this basic principle of trust. How can DTC health businesses create trust between themselves and consumers? I believe we can find our answer in an unlikely place: the entertainment industry. Entertainment cultivates trust and builds fans. As an entertainment professional, I have witnessed how studios rely on their audiences’ trust for survival. They either cultivate it into something remarkable, like Disney’s timeless franchises (Marvel, Star Wars, Disney Princesses, take your pick), or demolish it into something unforgiveable (See the recent upset over Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog movie). Trust in its best form is seen as the cultivation and culmination of fans. Fans are not passive consumers. They are engaged contributors. They are zealous for the characters of their favorite stories– eager to not just watch but be a part of the story themselves. Fans want to be valued and able to engage with their favorite characters and stories. Fans have a two-way relationship with characters and story. It’s not just a product being pedaled one way from business to consumer. It’s a dialogue, an experience, a relationship. It’s a feedback loop of trust, regenerating the same great experiences and sensations that made people fans in the first place. [Read more on fans here] Fans Thrive In today’s entertainment industry that is oversaturated with content, entertainment companies that cultivate fans are the ones that thrive. One particular entertainment property that surprised studio executives and audiences alike with its fanbase was Deadpool. A foul mouthed, 4th wall breaking comic book character brought to life by die-hard fan Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool broke barriers in content ratings and audience appeal, relying heavily on its relationship with the viewers and allowing them to be a part of the story as well. I think of the cheeky yet interactive commercials that ran prior to the release of Deadpool 2 which crystallize the collaborative, fan-driven spirit of Deadpool. [More on Deadpool’s fans here] A New Type of Fan Now imagine if a DTC health company had characters and stories—entertainment properties—as fan driven as Deadpool? Not only would that DTC health company create a sustainable, lasting relationship with their consumers, they will be able to stand out in a crowded marketplace where consumers have the upper hand. In a rapidly changing world of endless choices, health companies must cultivate fans. The best service or best quality product won’t stand out when consumers are bombarded by choice. What stands out is the experience. The story. The entertainment. If we cultivate fans of health, patients would be more than just consumers. They’d be involved in their own healthcare and well-being with the same zeal, dedication and energy as your local trekkie. From passive patient to conscious consumer to now fearless fan, we could shift the paradigm of healthcare from a one-way relationship to a collaborative experience worth repeating. A collaboration fostered by trust and respect between all-parties involved. An experience that is creative, innovative and open to new perspectives to fight disease and increase wellness. A new way for people and healthcare providers to work together and thrive. Stay tune for part 2 of Healthy Fans where we explore fan-worthy, entertainment for health products.

  • TikTok, It’s Health Retail O’Clock

    Will Walmart Defeat Amazon? It might have been a surprise to some when Walmart sold their VOD service, Vudu, to Fandango earlier this year, but as soon as Walmart announced their advertising business, I could see their logic from switching from content distributor to content playmaker. Walmart saw that great content was necessary, but retail is zooming past the boundaries of entertainment and integrating into something new. We’re close to the day when we’ll watch our favorite Amazon Prime show, tap on the screen and order Mrs. Maisel’s outfit through Amazon. Soon we will pause a podcast and ask Alexa to order the product that the host is raving about. Having made retail frictionless, Amazon knows that it’s maybe less than two years from when retail and entertainment become one and the same. And Walmart knows that it has to bolster the Walmart experience to make a stand against Amazon. TikTok is the answer. But not in the way we’ve been anticipating. Yes, e-commerce is becoming more content driven, interactive and virtual (hello AR!), but the real battleground of e-commerce will take place in the hottest retail trend yet: Health. Yes, health. Health retail will be where Walmart might yet out-smart, out-maneuver and (dare we say) out-deliver Amazon. Already a trusted source for OTC health products, Walmart health super centers are providing low cost-high quality care to Americans who have famously been left behind by health tech’s advances. While Amazon’s PillPack, Alexa medication integrations, and tech infrastructure are marvels to behold, they lack the trust and transparency American consumers have come to know as the retail experience. And while Amazon may wise up and start offering in-person care services, perhaps at Whole Foods (Whole Health?) or Prime Doctors on Demand (only after launching a telehealth service through Chime, Amazon’s version of Zoom), they will still struggle to cultivate trust and sustain engagement. Why? Because Big Tech, no matter their expertise in innovation and logistics, still treats consumers like products, not humans; data, not people. And even though Amazon has award-winning TV and movies, they are not a content platform that is powered by their users. Rather, they are a monolith powered by tech executives who have a baked in focus on data, not the human experience. Unlike TikTok. TikTok is the ideal location for content creators, with content that is generated by the very people it entertains. Powered by their own creativity, desires and agency, TikTokkers are able to cultivate community and a network effect you can’t find on Amazon Prime. TikTok has built a global community of humans who interact directly with their followers, collaborate with each other, and foster relationships that deliver enduring engagement. And with a global community of real relationships amplified by content, TikTok’s ability to transform e-commerce into a social, entertaining experience will be unparalleled to any other. Which brings us back to health retail. How will Walmart use TikTok to deliver a transformative health retail experience? While health remains a disengaging, alienating topic for most, TikTok has unlocked a socially driven health experience that has astronomical user engagement and stickiness that would make any health care company green with envy. Walmart could leverage TikTok’s creator-owned relationships to promote their health services and products, outshining Big Tech’s attempts to better the health experience. Creator owned narratives will drive e-commerce activity to brick and mortar services, such as Walmart health super centers. What’s more socially validating than posting a TikTok challenge video of getting your flu shot at Walmart? Yes, there will be advertising opportunities galore within TikTok, but what’s even more exciting is Walmart’s opportunity to create health content that aligns with the values and stories of today’s Screen-first Consumer™ . There will be no divide between health, retail and entertainment; It will all be one social experience that is rewarding and enduring. And, if done right, Walmart could leverage TikTok to create Health Entertainment: entertainment that just so happens to improve health. So as Amazon releases its Halo Ban fitness device, continuing its foray into health, while relying on data and technology to solve health engagement, I will be carefully watching Walmart’s content creator strategy shift health retail….hopefully for the better.

  • Healthy Fans Part 2

    Originally Published June 14th 2019 Healthcare Must Be Fan Worthy I was intrigued by the joint-venture announcement from Comcast and Independent Blue Cross to bring healthcare into the home through traditional entertainment devices such as TV and smartphones. This unlikely duo may seem odd at first, but I suggest it’s actually a sneak peek into the future of Direct To Consumer (DTC) healthcare. As consumers, we have more options in healthcare than ever as technology continues to become increasingly more enmeshed in our daily lives.Health care must evolve into an experience worth repeating. It must become fan worthy. It must become entertainment. Big Tech’s Bet Comcast is not alone in its pursuit of healthcare. Big tech companies, with established consumer products, are applying the principles of digital engagement and user-friendly tech, to the overwhelming nightmare that is US healthcare. Some of these companies Apple Watch’s new advance health and fitness capabilities, Facebook’s recent launch of health support groups, Amazon’s Alexa’s recent HIPPA compliance. These companies have succeeded at engaging consumers with their tech and content offerings, yet will that engagement transfer to health? Can they turn patients into fans? As DTC healthcare continues to provide consumer products, the opportunities to build fans of healthcare enormous.  But what would this look like? It will look a lot like entertainment consumer products. Exercise While Being Entertained For instance, Pokemon GO has made headlines for increasing activityand contributing to public health amongst a variety of populations. Did Pokemon Go’s publisher, Niantic Inc., intend to create a health product? Probably not. Instead they created an interactive, character-driven entertainment property; a game that allowed players to immerse themselves in the story and world of Pokemon. The healthy outcomes were a fortuitous byproduct of great entertainment. Since then, Niantinc Inc. has seized the opportunityof healthy entertainment by creating integrations for Apple Health and Google Fit. But Niantinc’s initial success did not come from the health tech; it comes from the characters, stories and fans of Pokemon.  The value is in the entertainment. As Niantic extends its entertainment offerings, their mission has expanded to include “exercise” as a key requisite of their games. I am eager to see how players react to their newest release Harry Potter: Wizards Unite!I believe Niantic will continue to create character-driven experiences that encourage players to explore their world and effortlessly stay fit. I am deeply energized by the great work done by Niantic, but I know that we can do much more. DTC healthcare’s user-friendly technology and digital engagement will surely improve health outcomes. Yet the full potential for DTC health cannot be realized until we start creating experiences worth repeating, until we create entertainment with health as a core by-product.

  • WellPlay’s Virus Hunters: Entertainment for Pandemic Prevention

    Problem: As COVID-19 spreads fear world-wide, the panic stricken public is increasingly wary of information and mis-information from health authorities and others. Few people are consistently washing their hands, the only recommended safeguard against viral spread. Solution: Virus Hunters is our first mobile game that uses augmented reality (AR) and character driven narrative to deliver reliable, entertaining health information and modify behavior. Players are on a hero’s quest to defeat disease, searching their surroundings in augmented reality for Coronavirus and other dangerous contagions, while learning how to defeat the virus through game play. WellPlay is the first entertainment company that empowers audiences with pandemic prevention action steps. Using our signature Fan Feedback Loop, character driven narrative and augmented reality gaming, we are able to increase health engagement, empower individuals with health literacy and be apart of the COVID-19 solution. In today’s entertainment-driven society, can games and other web based media be a better pandemic prevention tool than traditional health information campaigns? Let’s look at the data: Ndemic Creations, creators of the video game Plague Inc have issued a statement directing players to seek Corona virus information from health authorities, rather than the game itself. Plague Inc’s 130Million+ players managed to crash the website recently as concerns about the Corona Virus Epidemic continued to grow. ““[W]henever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks” wrote Ndemic Creations. Plague Inc has been praised by the CDC and other health organizations for its ability to raise awareness of infectious disease, while remaining realistic and informative. The 2011 pandemic thriller, Contagion, by Steven Soderbergh has surged to the top of google searches, Twitter mentions and iTunes downloads recently. Many cite the uncanny similarities between the current Corona Virus and the film’s fictional “MEV1” virus to explain the renewed interest in the film. Yet I believe there is something more profound happening in response to the Corona virus; people are more trusting of entertainment than institutions when it comes to health emergencies. While the CDC and WHO try to make authoritative health information go viral (pun intended), millions are turning their attention to entertainment for a source of guidance. In our entertainment-driven society, I’m not surprised that audiences are more trusting of movies and games than they are of actual health authorities. No matter how many forms of shareable content the CDC or WHO creates, they still struggle to engage audiences—even in times of global crisis. But why? Traditional health information media lacks the compelling character driven narrative that our story-hungry society craves. It’s impossible to pay attention to hand washing directions when the information is as sterile and dehumanizing as a cadaver. The health industry remains disempowering, intangible and inaccessible, while the entertainment industry provides audiences with opportunities to be a part of the story and therefore a part of the solution. Contagion is not a movie about a viral outbreak—it’s a movie about group of individuals’ quest to stop a disease. Soderberg’s Contagion centers the narrative around the human condition—the needs, wants and desires of individuals, which is more relatable to audiences than patronizing infographics. Plague Inc. focuses on the choices of the player. In Plague Inc. players are presented with opportunities to create a pandemic within game play. Plague Inc activates the player’s agency to make decisions that affect the story and final outcome of their game. Plague Inc. is the ultimate power trip for players. If entertainment manages to capture the attention of audiences – engaging them in stories of health and providing opportunities for individuals to learn about pandemics, is it possible that entertainment can mobilize individuals to stop the spread of infectious disease? Yes. WellPlay is the first entertainment company that changes behaviors. Our first game is Virus Hunters, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game that allows users to detect disease, build immunity and save the world from infectious disease. In Virus Hunters, we bring to life the microscopic concepts of biology with our AR characters. Players learn how viruses spread by scanning their environment for contagions and battling them in AR. Much like Pokemon GO, Virus Hunters encourages real world exploration but goes one step further by rewarding players in game play for healthy behaviors. Virus Hunters allows players to level up in game play when they reach certain milestones such as 10,000 steps walked, or visits to health providers. Virus Hunters blends the AR adventure of a hero’s quest with the real time health interventions that improves lives. At WellPlay, we believe that entertainment can improve health outcomes. We know that the pandemic prevention community struggles with engagement and we want to fix that, starting with our game Virus Hunters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues and health information campaigns continue to fail, we need new, innovative solutions for public health. Why not try entertainment? Why not Virus Hunters?

  • Transforming Audiences Into Fans - Part 1

    originally published July 2nd 2019 A Story That Inspires “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."- Title IX 1972 The Hunting Ground was a 2015 documentary about sexual assault on US college campuses. It bear witness to the Title IX survivor rights movement and documented survivor-activists fighting for an education free of sexual violence. The documentary explores the stories of survivors, and uses 1st person narratives to put the viewer in the survivor’s shoes. These are stories of unfathomable pain and betrayal, but also of unprecedented determination and advocacy. For me, it was more than just a movie. It was my story. As a survivor activist, I was included in The Hunting Ground and watched as my story and that of hundreds of others motivated audiences around the globe to speak out and demand change. This begs the question then: How did a story about sexual violence break through the barriers of taboo, shame and judgement to cultivate a community of change makers? The Hunting Ground was a documentary that inspired. It shared stories that allowed the audience to recognize themselves in the survivors on screen. It was able to generate recognition and compassion between the audience and the documentary subjects, inspiring them to go beyond passive consumption of the film and do more. Recognizing The Other A great story inspires us to recognize ourselves in others. To be able to relate to the emotional content of other people that we would never consider worth our attention. As the famed Swedish film-maker Ingmar Berman puts it “"No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul." An inspirational story humanizes ourselves and others. It reaches into our core existence as emotional creatures and unites us behind the shared emotions that we all experience: joy and sorrow, love and hate, delight and pain; the full lexicon of emotions we experience as human beings. Inspiration Leads To Fans An inspirational story is the very first stage of cultivating a community. It’s the first step in fostering fans of a cause, character, or world. For The Hunting Ground, we were able to take the principles of entertainment fandoms and reconfigure them to amplify the message of survivor activists. We activated the agency in audience members to be a part of the solution, rather than perpetuating the problem. But we were only able to do so by examining these stories and reframing them into a context that was empowering. We had to equip viewers with opportunities to become involved. We needed the audience to be a part of the story. We needed them to become fans. To cultivate fans, you need a story that inspires. But beyond that, the story needs to turn intent into action and action into co-creation. Only then will the community of fans be able to achieve what the story has inspired them to do in the first place.

  • From Fear To Fearless

    Published Jan 2 2019 Updated: Jun 4 2019 Cultivating Fans of Global Health and Disease Detection “Wellness” is empowering. When you think of wellness, you think of all the things you are doing right by your body, mind and spirit. You think of the power and choices you have made to be well. Wellness is wealthy, it’s abundant, it’s the haves…not the have-nots. “Disease” renders you powerless. It’s a problem, an obstacle, a consequence of something you did wrong, a wrong committed against you. You are victim to the disease, pulled down to its level of pain, hardship, hate and fear. Disease is the have-nots. Disease strips individuals of agency. Wellness allows them to make their own decisions. A New Approach to Disease But what if we could approach disease the way we approach wellness? What if we felt empowered when learning about diseases, their prevention, detection and treatment? Instead of paralyzed by fear, we were energized by possibility, by action and by choice? Let’s imagine, for a moment, that we could see disease beyond its dismal characteristics. Beyond its suffering. What is it about the disease that could allow us to no longer be victims…but rather victors? A Hero's Quest I propose that the framework for disease, like any violence against the human condition, can be an opportunity for agency. A chance to be empowered by choices. A hero’s quest to find a solution, a treatment, a cure. Wellness is about information and choice. To have choices, we must have access to information. Health literacy and bodily integrity give individuals greater bodily autonomy—decision making power over their own bodies and treatments. Yet in 2019, children are still unable to identify the parts of their bodies, access to misinformation is more readily available than accurate health literature, science and medical jargon remains elitist and hidden in ivory towers of academia. It’s no wonder that FitBit, juicing, cross fit, detox teas and new age diet trends are more popular than basic public health information. Consumer-facing wellness products offer opportunities and choices — even communities and fandoms. Disease and global health feel abysmal in comparison. Global Health Fans & Augmented Reality This is why I have made it my mission to cultivate fans of global health. I aim to flip the status quo of the fear-based approach of medicine, instead empowering communities of co-creators -- learning, engaging and making informed choices about global health. These fans are victors, not victims of disease. In 2019, we will launch our build of the AR mobile game, Virus Hunters. Players are disease detectives—identifying and battling pathogens, while also developing treatment and vaccines. (Patho)physiology is organically woven into the character driven game, as well as real time health alerts that connect learning with action. We cultivate fans of disease detection. We allow players to make their own choices for their health. We create space to play, learn and flourish. Virus Hunters is just the tip of the iceberg for co-creative solutions to global health. We look forward to seeing what we can accomplish at the intersections of interactivity, global health and agency.

  • The Coming Convergence of Healthcare and Entertainment

    Healthcare is failing. Consumers are increasingly alienated from big insurers, big pharma and the consolidation of providers. Tech is moving to solve these problems, but trust in tech, especially for sensitive health information, is at an all-time low. Our company, WellPlay, overcomes this alienation by applying our entertainment expertise to solve some of the complex challenges of healthcare: patient engagement, treatment adherence and behavior change. In simple terms, we use the “Disneyfication” of healthcare to transform patients into fans. Healthcare and entertainment are converging. As the silos between health, tech and entertainment breakdown, consumer experiences are becoming more interactive and content driven. We see these silos start to break down at companies like Amazon. With the recent announcements of Alexa’s  medication management and their leap forward into interactive audio entertainment, we anticipate that Amazon’s Alexa – which has been HIPPA complaint since April 2019 – will soon be tackling the longstanding healthcare issues of patient engagement and treatment adherence with a novel strategy: interactive entertainment. Yet Amazon will falter. While Amazon’s strong digital engagement and robust content and consumer offerings seem like an easy solution for the healthcare industry, Amazon – like other Big Tech companies who have been keen to dominate healthcare – will still struggle with the alienating, disempowering narrative of healthcare. No matter how many gizmos, gadgets, and shiny new things Amazon and its contemporaries bring to market, the general public – who aren’t fitness enthusiasts or health zealots—will still lack engagement and adoption of these new health offerings. Unless of course we change the narrative of healthcare. But how? Introducing WellPlay At WellPlay we are transforming patients into fans of health. With our signature Fan Feedback Loop™ and our first consumer entertainment product, Virus Hunters™, WellPlay uses AR mobile gaming to cultivate fans of health with a new, empowering narrative. Players are on hero’s quest to defeat disease. We activate a player’s agency to make their own health care decisions in game play; emboldening players with health literacy and new health behaviors  (read more on the new narrative of health here). WellPlay is the first consumer entertainment company that improves health outcomes. As tech companies continue to apply their product and user experience expertise to the tricky beast that is US healthcare, we at WellPlay believe that reframing the narrative of health and producing fan worthy health content, products, and experiences, will result in better health outcomes. Why? Because we’re entertainment professionals who know what it takes to reframe disengaging, not-so-fun topics into interactive, engaging and fan worthy content, products and experiences. While technologists and doctors continue to struggle with engagement and adoption, we are using the principles of entertainment and play to increase engagement and change behaviors for healthier outcomes. We’re WellPlay and it’s a pleasure to meet you.* *And yes, we were Zamarra LLC before we incorporated. New name, same great company!

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