Author Archives: Beth Toner

Dispatches from Datapalooza: Focusing on the Patients

Jun 3, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Beth Toner

Beth Toner

From: Beth Toner

To: Christine Nieves, Paul Tarini and Thomas Goetz

Date: June 3, 2013

So, I’m not the “rookie”—as you are, Christine—nor am I a seasoned veteran like Thomas and Paul. This is my second Health Datapalooza. Last year, I’d been at the Foundation not quite three months, and while I’m a health care provider, I can honestly say that I felt completely overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know about health data.

There’s still a lot about health data I don’t know, but I’ve been lucky enough to connect (both virtually and personally) with great colleagues and mentors who have given me a glimpse into how powerful data can be. For me, it all comes back to the patient: How can we harness data to change the way patients participate in care? How can we help patients harness their own data?

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Listen Up: Why Innovators Need to Listen to Consumers

May 23, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Beth Toner

Beth Toner, communications officer Beth Toner, communications officer

I recently spent the day at the MIT AgeLab, and it was an important reminder of why successful innovators in any field need to listen to the consumer.

I was there to participate in a roundtable discussion on engaging the “older” consumer online (much to my chagrin, I realized that I am in fact part of this demographic). Folks from a variety of for-profit organizations were at the table, along with MIT AgeLab staff conducting and supporting research in this area. I was the only person there from a philanthropic organization.

The presenter line-up was eclectic. To my delight, Sally Okun from Pioneer grantee PatientsLikeMe was there to share her perspective on how PatientsLikeMe helps patients make complex decisions about their health. Courtney Ratkowiak from Proctor & Gamble highlighted that company’s innovative efforts to reach women ages 55 and older who buy beauty products. (I was surprised to learn that most women 55+ don’t own a smart phone.) Mark Duffey, CEO of Everest Funeral Planning, showed how his company makes difficult decision-making easier by going out of his way to make prices clear. (Apparently, the three things women dread purchasing the most are financial services, cars and health care.)

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Making Health Care Quality Meaningful to Patients

Apr 9, 2013, 4:18 PM, Posted by Beth Toner

Beth Toner

Wall Street Journal reporter Laura Landro’s recent interview with a front-line doctor underscores why we need more meaningful ways to measure quality. Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Victor Montori, who specializes in treating people with chronic illnesses, says health care systems and doctors are not being rewarded for preventing disease and instead pressured to satisfy measures that mean little for patients or health.

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Patient-Centered: Good Health Care and Good Design

Apr 1, 2013, 6:00 AM, Posted by Beth Toner

Beth Toner

We’ve got design on our minds — from the design of health care’s physical environment to the design of the patient-provider interaction. We know all play a role in improving patient safety, the quality of care and even health outcomes.

To expand our understanding of design and to meet innovators who are putting their ideas into action, the Pioneer team has been sponsoring conferences, like the Mayo Clinic’s Transform, and attending others, like the GAIN—the AIGA Design for Social Value Conference or the Healthcare Experience Design conference, which I attended last week.

What is most intriguing to me about design — in realm of health care and more broadly — is how the ideas about how to do it right mirror our thinking about health care in general: it needs to be centered on the patient, both their needs and their unique experiences.

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Got the Flu? Antibiotics Won’t Help (So Please Don’t Ask for Them)

Jan 28, 2013, 12:09 PM, Posted by Beth Toner

Beth Toner Beth Toner

One look at the latest flu map from the Centers for Disease Control tells you everything you need to know: We are smack-dab in the middle of flu season. Make no mistake: Influenza, at best, can make you miserable—and, at worst, kill you. If you are one of the many Americans suffering from the flu this season, you will probably try anything to get relief from your sore throat, high fever, body aches, and chills. But do us a favor: Please don’t ask your doctor for an antibiotic. There are medications—called antivirals—that may decrease your symptoms and shorten your illness by a day or two. Antibiotics, however, won’t help you if you have the flu. 

Antibiotics don’t fight infections that are caused by viruses, including influenza. Yet every year flu sufferers are prescribed antibiotics. According to a policy brief from Extending the Cure (ETC), a project funded by the Pioneer team, that researches and examines solutions to address antibiotic resistance, between 500,000 and 1 million antibiotic prescriptions are filled each flu season for patients who have the flu and no bacterial illness.

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