I am finding a contradiction between my feedback about Ed Tech and my feedback about Med Tech. In the Ed Tech space, I find that the experts in education are often missing. Too often, people feel like that because they have been students, they understand the problems of education – and therefore, they are qualified to build solutions. The challenge is, that some of the “problems” of education from a student perspective aren’t really problems. They are intentional, and needed – because sometimes learning is hard. The example that comes to mind are the medical education note taking apps. People seem to think that note taking in medical educations should be streamlined – to make it more efficient. The problem is, that note taking is actually an act of learning, and by making it more efficient you are reducing the learning that occurs. You are solving a non-problem.
In Med Tech, (or health tech), I find that apps are being created an the experts being sought are physicians, allied healthcare professionals, and other medical professionals. They are trying to solve “compliance” or “activation” problems – in that they are creating technology that helps doctors better treat patients. But, I find that it feels to me like it is solving the problem from the wrong perspective – that the wrong experts are being brought in. There are real problems that patients face that aren’t really addressed by technology – because they are problems that patients have but doctors don’t see, or doctors dismiss as not “medically” important. For example, the tracking of chemotherapy side effects. Since every patient is different, there is no way for medical professionals to tell patients how they will react to the treatments. As a patient, it would be useful if I had an app where I could track what side effects are happening when, especially during the first course of treatment. That information could then be used to help me predict how I will feel during the next cycle. It could also be used to track how things are changing between cycles so that I could again, better predict, how the next cycle would be. From a medicine perspective, the issues are completely different. Doctors only care about nausea when it is to bad that you are puking and not able to keep down fluids or food. Otherwise, it is just a minor annoyance. OK, but as a patient, I don’t want to be planning a social dinner outing if I’m going to be nauseous. Knowing when the side effects (which might not be bad enough for medical intervention) hit me, helps me plan my life around treatment.
It is interesting that in these two cases the experts are different. There are a lot of apps that try to solve the “medical” problems that occur, but not many that actually look at the patient problems from a patient perspective. There are a lot of Ed Tech apps that try to solve education problems from the student perspective, that aren’t really learning problems. So, in these cases, the “experts” are very different.
One thought I have is that the goal behind the apps is not aligned with who the experts are. In Ed Tech, the goal of the apps is to increase learning. The experts on how to increase learning are the educators and educational researchers. The students are stakeholders, but they are not the experts. From a Med Tech perspective, the goal is often to improve the quality of life of patients. If that is the case, then the medical establishment isn’t necessarily the expert, the patient is. The medical establishment are stakeholders, maybe. Often the medical professionals don’t need nor do they want more information. Patients on the other hand could use tools to help them improve their quality of life. So, the patients are the experts, not the medical professionals.
As I work through my research, I find myself wanting to do work in Med Tech (maybe), but wanting to solve Quality of Life problems for patients – not compliance or activation problems from the perspective of medical professionals.
Does this make sense? Do you have a ‘Quality of Life’ problem that you’d like to see Med Tech address?