There was a lot to digest and after a week of incubation I have finally completed this post.
I’m a fan of Richard Branson.
You're probably thinking, "wait, Richard Branson, what does he have to do with Solve Sleep?"
Well, nothing to my knowledge, but he does have an influence on how I want to approach my blog. Branson's approach to his blog and messages from my POV is substance over form and I love that.
First, let me thank the team from HealthXL for inviting me to participate as one of the curious. I had a great time and walked away with a completely different understanding of sleep. It had me asking questions about sleep and each member of my family, my son in particular. The Medical Innovation Summit that followed augmented that understanding, but that’s for another post.
For you insomniacs and others afflicted with a sleep ailment, let me apologize, we didn’t solve sleep.
However, I have some textbooks that I would wager could put anyone to sleep if falling asleep is your biggest challenge. Send me a message and I’ll be happy to forward them your way.
I don’t think the expectation was for 60 people to literally come up with a comprehensive approach or solution to sleep in one weekend.
Having said that, I thought we were going to do a little more, particularly since there were going to be design thinking gurus present.
I went in with a pretty open mind just trying to absorb everything and ask questions.
After 20-30 years of snoring and nagging, my dad recently went through the process and now sleeps with a CPAP machine, so I came in curious about the process and the options.
Finally, here are the key takeaways and some areas for improvement. The chaps from HealthXL specifically asked for such recommendations and I think that says a lot about them.
1. As I learned this weekend --- the process for diagnosis and treatment is long, arduously and unnecessarily long. For good measure it’s also inconvenient, potentially pricey and all for a result that doesn’t cure you or eliminate the problem. That last tidbit would be very discouraging to hear as patient.
2. As for the event itself, the format limited the outcome. We were probably never going to solve sleep in one weekend, but splitting up the problem into 3 phases (Diagnosis, Treatment and Monitoring) and 2 perspectives (Doctor v Patient) was a very analytical approach, which is fine for some problems, but sleep is not one of them. Its interconnectedness, which was alluded to throughout the weekend, makes it a prime candidate for a systems thinking based approach. The Medical Innovation Summit had an amazing panel on systems thinking and that cemented this in my mind.
3. Apnea gets most of the attention, but there’s a bigger story. Most people are sleep deprived and it has a huge impact in the aggregate, some staggering GDP figures were mentioned in respect to lost productivity and/or output; but a lack of concern, understanding and no easy way to tell how sleep deprived someone is stands in the way of any effort. These barriers will be difficult to overcome without a holistic approach.
4. Design Thinking works. The team from Azul 7 gave great presentations and we did some exercises that showed design thinking’s potential, but we were only scratching the surface without observing patients and doctors live through the problems. I wonder if Azul 7 had designed the event, what would it have looked like? Felt like? While this was a memorable experience, I bet it could have been life changing for many people.
5. Weight loss and the digeridoo are two of the most effective treatments. They won’t cure you (nothing will yet) and they don’t work for all patients, but combined they can reduce the number of episodes for some apnea patients nearly 60%.
Potential for Improvement
I see the event and the HealthXL team evolving. They want to make a difference and that was plain to see, so here are some thoughts that might help.
1. The environment or atmosphere was good, but I’m not sure enough was done to let everyone know it should be a safe place for bold ideas. Many of the ideas were safe, ordinary, and lacked the surprising insight that design thinking is known for.
2. Not going out to see what either the patients or clinicians go through was always going to limit the outcome. Where are the insights & surprises supposed to come from without observing the frustrations that they talk about firsthand? Maybe this will be part of the ongoing effort to address the challenge?
3. When individual teams focused on their respective POV, which was a great way to make it personal, the collective group lost some of the work that was done previously as the brainstorming focused on the one POV/problem.
Brainstorming was a painstaking process at our table and by the looks of other tables we weren’t alone. Participants too easily started asking too many questions about ideas. Explanations were too long and conversations that led nowhere were rampant.
I found myself just writing my own ideas down just to get some real progress. Looking back I probably should have just said, “hey, your line of questioning isn’t going to help us, the patients or doctors, so grab a pen, a sticky note and start writing!”
In the future I would recommend that the brainstorming session be almost completely silent for 30 minutes. Let people write ideas down and after the 30 minutes if there are any questions, they can be addressed and either another silent round can be done or a dialogue round can be done.
4. I mentioned this in the takeaways, but what would a design thinking approach to the weekend have looked like?
5. Something that seems trivial, but could have yielded better results is having the event AFTER the summit. Daniel Kraft’s talk alone would have made a difference as it quickly gave everyone a near complete view of the current cutting edge of health technology & innovation. As I mentioned before, many of the ideas were too safe. From what I’ve read breakthrough innovations are not safe or comfortable.
6. I would have liked to have seen a few high school, college and maybe even younger attendees. They would have asked the beginner’s mind questions. They would have been persistent and they would have challenged doctor and patient assumptions.
7. The experts could have recorded their presentations and posted them online. This could have streamlined questions and increased group knowledge before the event even started. This would make more time for the field and more value added activities. Perhaps, the experts themselves could have seen more design thinking in action and that would have changed their mindsets going forward.
Each team had an expert to answer questions, but our time with them was very limited and what about key findings? There didn’t seem to be a mechanism to communicate insights outside of selecting the top 3 challenges for each phase of the process.
All in all, it was a great event and I'm looking forward to making a contribution going forward. The HIMSS venue was fantastic and even inspiring.