Persistence of vision: HIMSS and the evolution of patient engagement

The last time I attended HIMSS it was as part of a team from Eclipsys/HealthVision. The year was 2000 and we were debuting a futuristic new product called Cardiovision. Here is a quick list of goals and features we envisioned at the time:

The product was designed to reduce hospital re-admissions; to function like a "care net" for patients leaving the hospital after cardiac surgery.

The product integrated tools for  clinicians, but was envisioned for patients to use at home.

The product provided ongoing messaging, bi-weekly 3-way video teleconferencing appointments for patients with their doctors and care managers, as well as secure access to an electronic medical record.

We even used infographics for friendly display of progress/risk charts to patients and providers.

There was e-prescribing, but not just for medication. Learning and physical activity was prescribed as well, with the goal of promoting the patient's mental and physical healing. We even suggested a social network, a way to buddy up patients with walking partners.

On the behavioral side, we created a custom, lean content set designed for distribution to the patient via e-mail over a six-week period, the time when hospital readmission rates were the highest (most costly, and deadliest too).

The content was created to meet literacy levels anticipated in the community, and all manner of engagement was embedded into the program.  In addition to static articles, we created quizzes, audio and videos inspired by Prochaska's transtheoretical model of change.

The entire product vision was based on a belief that patients were capable of and desired taking an active role in recovery, so we built tracking capabilities that enabled user input of activities and sentiments. We asked how people were feeling about the recovery process, and probed for emotional status reports too.

The product packaged up game theory into incentives for patients too. I believe one of the prizes was a pair of Nike walking shoes ...

This was 2000, not 2012. There was no broadband, few mobile phones; data was not liberated, and there were few incentives aimed at igniting consumer demand for participatory medicines.  The word "start-up" had hardly made it into the vernacular.

The prototype received a very positive reception, though many thought we were crazy ... The lead physician on the team appeared on local evening news, a big deal at the time. ... I believed we were even cited as "Best of Show" and singled out by a VC company fishing for good ideas at the conference.

The product in its entirety did not scale, though certain features were pulled out and developed further.


This trip down memory lane reminds me that the standout features of all tech-health products are their emotional features, Tracy Kidder's "Soul of the New Machine" so to speak. So at HIMSS 2012 what's so cool to me is that Biz Stone is speaking, and Regina Holliday is painting, and e-Patient Dave is electrifying listeners, and Jane Sarsohn-Kahn is guiding and Fred Trotter is gamifying ... what this means is that the soul of patient engagement has become as ALIVE as the financial market surrounding it.  The metabolism of the space is rising!

So, here's to change and to visionaries old and new. Here's to prototyping and ongoing dialogs about empowerment and seeking ways to liberate dependencies on outdated business models.

Here's to art and science, to conversation and caring. And, above all else, here's to the persistence of vision that technology and tools can be put to good use creating compassionate solutions to ease human suffering.


  1. It is so good to see you comment on this. I am glad to see your vision of 12 years ago coming to fruition. Now, we have more work for next year to make sure HIMSS becomes even more inclusive...

  2. Christine,

    Ahhhh...the freedom to once again be able to exchange ideas with you on your blog, thank you!

    I am taken by your experience in the circa 2000 period because I too remember the idealism and the ideas that came from that space, including one rallying call "let's kick the he77 out of health care." What happened? Now we are hearing the same ideas all over again, and at one level our capabilities don't seem all that different - we really could do a lot in 1998, couldn't we, with many less messaging platforms to potentially distract. Thanks for not idea hoarding, time is on your side,