Mobile First, Future-Friendly, Free Your Content


This blog was first published by Donna Fedor in 2013. The inspiration for this blog posting came from Brad Frost’s unique thoughts on information overload in our mobile world, quoting James Gleick, “When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive”.

The main gist of Brad’s work is that with vast amounts of data being created “people’s capacity for crap is diminishing”. As a creative web strategist and designer, his thoughts are geared toward better design of mobile website content; but, I was excited about exploring the link to connected health.

Brad’s goal is to get people thinking differently about how content is delivered: what is extemporaneous, what is important and helpful, and how to design-in flexibility and adaptability to different environments and devices now and in the future.

This can be applied to delivering healthcare content (which can be defined as information, care, treatment or action) in a simple and more effective manner to a variety of devices and interfaces, in order to help people become healthier, prevent disease and eliminate unnecessary visits to a hospital or doctor.

Three of his thoughts resonated with me and are quite applicable to connected health.

“Mobile first” is a concept that focuses on designing content, not for the old context of a person sitting at a desk, but for the new context of the mobile being, with real life in mind. It needs to be much simpler, much smarter, and designed for mobile first, but it also needs to be flexible and adaptable for different form factors, devices and environments.

We can see the start of this thinking in healthcare. The old context is the physician-patient-device transaction in a clinical environment. The new context is designing content for people living their lives and managing their health wherever they are. The clinical environment is still a critical element; it is just not what we should be designing for first.

Design for outcomes first. Design for mobile first.

More easily said than done in a conservative and risk adverse industry, this type of thinking usually starts on the fringe and works its way into the mainstream. Definitely not the optimal approach as you typically end up shoehorning innovations into the traditional model. It helps when you have major incentives from government entities to spur action. It helps if your company is set up to be able to innovate, justify/measure and fund from within such as combination provider/payer entities like Kaiser.

The second concept is “future-friendly”, since there is no such thing as “future-proof”, which resounded more deeply with this quote,

“the most valued products will be those designed to live beyond the device, context or technology they were originally intended for”.

The product must be designed for the long term intended/desired outcome because the method of delivery will continually change. But this requires thinking about different scenarios, environments, and people, beyond today’s technology and devices, which can take a lot of time and energy and requires the desire to seek out of differing opinions up and down the value chain.

The final concept is “Free your content”, which feeds right into discussions on ownership of patient data and integrating data from all sources to impact the end outcome. Hugo Campos’ data liberation movement is a wonderful example of this. Brad includes a wonderful slide that says, “Make APIs, not war”.

Our industry, which is so deeply rooted in historical proprietary data sources as well as strict regulations on privacy and security, is slowly but surely rethinking approaches to allow for more openness, interconnectivity and interoperability.

“Embrace the Squishiness”, which Brad has trademarked, is definitely a difficult thing to ask for from the healthcare industry. Squishiness implies malleability, lack of defined edges and boundaries, which is not something embraced or desired in healthcare.

Well-defined guidelines, strict usages, minute details, compliance and adherence are the mode of operation. But, in reality, moving into the mobile world, delivering healthcare with a mobile first approach, designing to be future friendly and freeing your content will take an outlook that embraces a bit of “squishiness”. It will not be easy, but it will be necessary to help healthcare teams better define products and solutions that live beyond the device, context and technology.

There is a great quote by Ben Franklin that Brad includes in many of his presentations, “When you are finished changing, you are finished”, aka, the world is changing around you, if you stand still, you will be left behind.

Acknowledge, understand and embrace changes that are being created with connectedness and personalization of healthcare.

Take time to think about how those changes will affect your company. Reach out to your partners to gain new perspective. Put some definition around the known and the unknown. Think mobile first, design for an outcome beyond current technology and devices, and think about how you free your content as part of your digital, connected strategy.