Thursday, October 14, 2010

Privacy safeguards

For the past few months, the Wall Street Journal has run a great series on the use of electronic personal information by commercial entities. The series is titled "What They Know." While the emphasis of this series has mostly been on the tracking of web browsing behavior, the latest article in this series discusses the "scraping" of personal data from a patient support network called PatientsLikeMe.

This is a troubling development.

Like the electronic commerce IT revolution before it, the anticipated healthcare IT revolution depends upon the proper security (and associated trust) of private data. I have covered Privacy in healthcare before (see this, for example) and my summary conclusion remains that this topic will receive a disproportionate amount of attention in the coming months.

I don't agree with alarmists like Deb Peel who advocate against use of any patient data (and consequently put a number of patients at risk). The right answer is to put well understood safeguards in place and use de-identified data in a manner that promotes innovation in outcomes based treatment. This is an opportunity for companies to innovate in this space.

What products/innovations do you think we need?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Art of Product Management

As a product manager, I think a lot about how I can better understand my customers. A funny incident made me realize that one can't ever assume to know customers well enough: it's always a work in progress.

During the last week of September, I joined several other colleagues at the annual AHIMA conference in Orlando, Florida. The conference is a gathering of Health Information Management (HIM) professionals. Topics cover transcription, coding, release of information (or as the healthcare industry calls it, simply, 'ROI'), audits, and compliance. My company's booth was organized around our themes of connecting the patient record, EMR enablement, and compliance.

Emily, our Manager of Experiential Marketing, had developed a booth activity around building a bracelet as a metaphor for what we do: link the discrete elements in the physical and digital worlds and create a complete, valuable, patient record. For each bracelet that visitors made, we would donate money to a good cause. To obtain charms needed to build this bracelet, visitors would have to visit various stations and learn about our solutions. I didn't think this was a practical idea because I wasn't sure our customers would want to build bracelets at a conference. I thought an Apple iPad giveaway might have been more appealing.

It turned out--I was totally wrong and our booth visitors LOVED the activity! Emily knew this audience a lot better than I did. We ended up oversubscribed (mobbed?) and many customers told me that this was one of the most active booths at the show. Mission accomplished! Well done Emily and the team!