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Day Two of Innovation at DHCX

Before we give our highlights from Day Two of the Digital Health Communication Extravaganza, let’s add our voice to the chorus of attendees who were provoked by Sekou Andrews’ performative speech that closed Day One! Deeply touching (and amusing!), it was a superb example of using storytelling to talk about complex problems and solutions — a model we always love to see in action.

Vic Strecher’s Keynote Brings Inspiration and… Spirituality?

“We expect people to see our health message, say ‘Aha! Thank you, I never knew that before,’ and then do what we want them to do.” A lot of heads in the audience nodded at this and other observations by Vic Strecher. His keynote speech got us asking big questions like:

  • If all our models are about morbidity and mortality, how can we expect people to take a “health assessment” without it feeling like a “death assessment”?
  • Research shows that we aren’t good at making healthy decisions when under heavy cognitive load. How can we ease that load to help make those choices easier?
  • If affirming personal values like empathy helps us make better choices for our health, why do we keep asking people about their risk factors instead of their hopes and beliefs?
  • How can new technology help add tools like motivational interviewing into digital health interventions?

We’re really excited to put some of these concepts into action in our work at CommunicateHealth… stay tuned.

Digital Media — The digital self, the earned conversation, and the meaningful relationship

Rohit Bhargava, Craig Lefebve, and Gary Kreps got us thinking about digital identities, our truly social networks, and building meaningful health promoting relationships.

A few thoughts from this panel:

  • By adding values to our online identities, we’re beginning the process of self-affirmation discussed earlier by Vic Stretcher. How can digitizing the self help us get better at making difficult health choices?
  • We know that smokers stick with other smokers, and obese people tend to know other obese people. How can we reach key influencers in increasingly homogenized social groups?
  • Nonverbal aspects of interpersonal communication can be integrated in digital communication. This means it’s more important than ever to design simple, welcoming products and tools. (And remember, simple tools help ease cognitive load!)
  • How are readability, usability, and customization related to the credibility of our messages?

Ending with Innovation

The last speakers of the conference, Lawrence Swiader and Leigh Calabrese-Eck, shared interesting new campaigns that both try to change the tone of traditional health messaging to better connect with their audiences.

(And a good example of “tone fail”: Lawrence asks, “Why do the people on this vaginitis brochure look so… happy?”)

  • Bedsider.org isn’t about what type of birth control is “right” — it’s about what type is right for you. We love IDEO’s work, and weren’t surprised to learn that a number of users were involved in the creation and development of the site and complementary materials (like the new app Booty Log).
  • Eliza Corp. uses automated telephone calls with friendly, fun messages to engage people with their health insurance carriers. Themes include “Talk health to me, baby,” among others.

Hitting the right note with messaging was a big theme of this panel: is the slick, sexy look of Bedsider.org what a woman struggling with choices about birth control really wants to see? Is a “love letter from your heart” what a person wants to hear from their HMO? It sounds like these campaigns are striving to listen to their audiences and will continue to hone the content and style of their messages.


A huge thank you to Jay Bernhardt, the University of Florida, and everyone who was involved with this conference. It was a very special group of thinkers (and doers!).

Also, thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth to check out the conversation on the live Twitter feed, see some examples of our work, and take our daily poll (did you know that 8 out of 11 DHCX attendees want to get emails from their doctor in between visits?). We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

(Can’t wait till the next DHCX to hear from us? Make sure to follow @CommunicateHlth when we report on the SXSW Interactive Health track from Austin next month.)


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