In Review: 2012 Stanford Mobile Health Conference

The following is a guest post from Doug Naegele recapping major points from the recent Mobile Health Conference that took place at Stanford. Doug is the founder of Infield Health, a firm that builds mobile technology to help people adhere to medical and wellness programs. You can learn more at or follow @InfieldHealth.

The 2012 Mobile Health at Stanford meeting focused exclusively on “Baby Steps”, small actions everyday people can take to affect long-term healthy behavior change. Almost the entire meeting focused on designing products, managing relationships between different participants in the health community, and getting new ideas into the hands of users quickly.
Over the two-day meeting, themes emerged for the different groups of people that work on these projects.

Product developers and startups:

– Release a super-small product at first, with minimal functionality, then iterate and test new features on actual users.
– Early in the engagement with a user, ask him or her for one little commitment. “Floss one tooth,” for example.
– Find value for all the stakeholders that bring a project to life, not just the end user.

Healthcare entities that purchase and use these new tools:

– Discussions about ROI of a new initiative should always include the cost of inaction.
– A series of very quick trials, most of which will underperform, is usually better than a large, over-analyzed project plan full of features.
– At the outset, have a frank discussion with the innovation team about what they want most out of the project. It may not be money. It may be data, prestige, publication, introductions, investment or something else.

Academics and Non-profits

– Try to find ways to do small projects and trials outside of the traditional 5-year grant-award-trial-analysis cycle. Is there an Agile Development philosophy for research?
– Maybe prominent academics or non-profit leaders can coordinate the marriage of innovators with new tools and healthcare firms that like to try new things?
Finally, BJ Fogg left us with a couple of simple mantras about Baby Steps:
– The sequence of baby steps asked of the user is even more important than the list of baby steps.
– At the very beginning, ability matters more than motivation.
– Help people do what they want to do.

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