While ‘Dr. Google’ is often the punchline to a physician’s joke, the truth is that we turn to tech more than ever to get answers about our health. So aside from typing our symptoms into a search engine, what other tools are out there for patients?

On today’s livestream, we welcome Shelli Pavone, CEO and Co-Founder of Inlightened (getinlightened.com), to talk about healthcare innovation: why we need diverse patient voices shaping new tools, and how to embrace up-and-coming health technology to give us more control over our health.

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Video Transcript

Tracey Welson-Rossman: Thanks for joining us. Oh, we're live now. So oops, well, it's 12:00 in Philadelphia. Thanks for joining us. We took a break on our Facebook live. Joyce is in a lovely location undisclosed at the moment, but we were just talking about that and, you know, we took a little tiny break over the summer, but we're back talking about you know, healthcare and what patients can do you know to help themselves and help their doctors. And today we have a guest, Shelli Pavone from Inlightened and Shelli, would love to hear a little bit of your back story and then we'll get into a couple questions.

Shelli Pavone: Yeah, sounds great. So I have been in the healthcare field for my entire career. So close to 20 years now, worked for large pharmaceutical and device companies and really have spent the last seven or so years of my career focusing on smaller health tech startups. And two years ago, I started my own company which is called Inlightened. And Inlightened is an online marketplace composed of diverse group of healthcare professionals and experts who are really passionate about healthcare innovation and we facilitate collaboration via paid consulting between those healthcare experts and industry in order to advance health care innovation and also facilitate responsible disruption.

Joyce Griggs: Mmm.

Tracey: So just something small.

Shelli: Yeah. Small undertaking.

Tracey: A small undertaking. Yes.

Shelli: Yeah.

Joyce: Can can you, Shelli, can you say a little bit more about what you mean by like responsible disruption, cause I think our audience would love to hear about that.

Shelli: Yeah, absolutely. So you know this is timely because we see some of the Theranos trial in the news, right? And that's a great example of disruption that's not responsible. I think that in the startup space we talk a lot about disruption, disrupting industries, move, fast, break things, and in the healthcare industry there are different considerations that have to be taken, you know, patients lives are at stake. And so when we put you know, "responsible" in front of the word disruption we're really looking at the innovators in the healthcare space to take on the the onus and the responsibility for doing the background research and due diligence to make sure that we're not just moving fast and breaking things, you know, we want to be able to move fast, but we have to make sure that we are taking the necessary steps to include safety for everyone involved, as well.

Tracey: That’s really important. One of the things that we wanted to just discuss a little bit is, in fact, I just did this myself or a family member where I played Doctor Google and we even joked with our doctor about that, that I was, I was doing that. Besides doing that research, what are other things that we can use? With this plentitude of technology that we have, but specifically is their health tech that we can use to help ourselves as patients?

Shelli: Yeah, I think, you know, today there is more information available to us about our own bodies and our own health via technology than there ever has been before. And if you own a smartwatch or a smartphone, in most instances, you could access data about your heart rate, about your mobility metrics, cardio fitness, you can track your sleep patterns with a smartphone or something called an Oura Ring. And having access to all of this data is great, but I think we really need to understand how to interpret it responsibly in order to truly take control over our own health and that is where something called health literacy comes into play. And health literacy really refers to the level of competency an individual has in terms of being able to understand kind of basic concepts as they pertain to issues of health, health care and prevention and then, of course, there are a number of apps that can kind of help us boost our health literacy. I think that's really the first step to using technology in your own health. And so the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention have developed an app. It is called Health IQ. And it is a trivia based platform that helps individuals learn more about important health topics and improving their health literacy. And then, you know, a major cornerstone of proficient health literacy is also being able to make informed decisions with regard to things like exercise, diet, and nutrition. You know, factors that can influence the likelihood of chronic illness down the road. And so there are also a lot of apps that can help with that. But there's one particular app called MyFitnessPal app, which delivers a fairly comprehensive guide to nutrition. And so, when it comes to really taking control over your health, in that regard, I would say knowledge is power. Accessing, you know, anything that can give you that additional information and then, you know, if you're suffering from an acute symptom, there are much better resources that are available to you than just Google. Inlightened has a client, their name is Buoy Health and Buoy's tag line is we help people make the best decisions about their health and they do that in a couple of different ways. So first of all, if you have symptoms that you're concerned about instead of kind of just winging it via Dr. Google, right, you can actually open a chat on Buoy's website and explain your symptoms to Buoy and then you get feedback on those symptoms from the causes to severity. It kind of gives you some clinical insight into what might be going on and then, ultimately, they help you kind of choose the right care option by guiding you to the right services based on your condition. And then if you give them permission, they'll actually follow up with you. And so I think that that's a really much more targeted way to get background information about your health and then also, if you don't want to open a chat, you can just go to Buoy's website and they provide a ton of resources for learning. You can do looking up number of health articles that can be searched by body part, by symptom, or by general topics A to Z. And so, what they're taking is, you know, kind of that large amount of information that's available from a lot of different resources on Google that aren't necessarily vetted and really bringing it into a more safe space to do that research on your own.

Joyce: Right, right. That's really, really important.

Tracey: I’m sorry?

Joyce: I’m sorry. I was I didn't mean to speak over you, did you have a follow-up or?

Tracey: No, I just, I think that's really interesting because the other thing about Dr. Googling it is you look at the worst case scenario. No matter how optimistic a person you can be. And if you're a worrywart you're definitely looking at worst case scenario. So. 

Shelli: Yeah, absolutely. And you know I think each person is individual and you're only looking at a worst case scenario and options from, that have come from people. And we don't really have a lot of insight into the actual symptoms that were presented. You know, it's really just kind of a catch-all and I think that's the problem with using something as, you know, variable and broad as Google. Is that sure I mean, you know, a lot of symptoms can lead to something terrible. It doesn’t mean that that's what yours are.

Tracey: Right, exactly. We do have a question from Cary and I'm not sure which website that they are referring to, but was it, was it Buoy?

Shelli: Yeah, I think probably, it's Buoy maybe and it's, yeah, it's spelled B U O Y.

Joyce: B U O Y and then maybe could you say again also the CDC Health IQ?

Shelli: Yes. Yes. So that that app is called Health IQ and you I believe you can just look it up you know US Center for Disease Control and Prevention HealthIQ app.

Joyce: Right.

Tracey: So just we answered the question.

Joyce: Yeah. Just so that people are clear that it's the it's the Centers for Disease Control. HealthIQ app, you know? Because a lot of apps may come up when you look for the app, but make sure it's one that says, CDC or Centers for Disease Control. You're not downloading something that maybe isn't as good or as

Tracey: Or different. Yes.

Shelli: Absolutely.

Tracey: So Joyce, I think you had a question.

Joyce: Yeah, I was wondering, how do, you know, how do we benefit? Like, maybe this little more philosophical question, but how do we benefit as healthcare consumers and patients. When we do have a diversity of voices, you know, in healthcare innovation. Like why is that so important?

Shelli: So diverse voices in healthcare are first of all critical to improving the tools and the therapies that boost outcomes and reduce disparities. You know, if you look at the United States, you know, we're a nation where more than 38 million people live in poverty and where, unfortunately, communities of color generally face more barriers to care. And one of the core purposes of healthcare innovation is not only to create more efficient and effective care delivery, but it's also to help democratize care. And I think in order to create the most effective products, it's crucial that those involved in designing these solutions represent the perspectives, the cultures, and needs that really mirror that of the people that they serve. You know, to put it simply, the better a patient is represented and understood the better they can be treated. And so it is incredibly important that the people who are in, you know, responsible for healthcare innovation, you know, and and not only that, but the people that are you know involved in any kind of piece of the innovation life cycle need to make it a priority to include diverse perspectives and that's diverse perspectives of you know providers as well as patients.

Joyce: Yeah. That's really important. Yeah.

Shelli: I was just going to say I have, I have you know, an article that I read recently that's kind of an interesting example of you know

Joyce: Yeah, if you could give us an example, that would be really great.

Shelli: Yeah, of course. So research this article that I read recently shown that fewer patents are actually awarded to women than men when it comes to biomedical innovation. And so the study published in science found that female inventors or more likely to come up with biomedical ideas and products that focus on the needs of women. Whereas, of course, male inventors are more inclined to focus on products for men. And so ultimately, it's concluding that society is missing out on potential medications, devices, and technology that could benefit women's health because women are being awarded so many fewer patents. And I think that, again, when diverse perspectives are not considered, those populations miss out on innovation and, you know, I think conversely, too, including diverse perspectives promotes that little bit of the outside of the box thinking, and we know that that really leads to unlocking innovation and solutions that are developed with diverse perspectives in mind are also able to traditionally serve a wider audience of people, which could also potentially lead to greater financial outcomes for healthcare innovators, as well. So, there're a ton of upsides to including diverse perspectives here.

Tracey: So in terms of Inlightened, your company, I know you gave us some background. But you know, what are you seeing? The people who are coming in, who are looking to use the experts, like, could you give us a description of the type of startups and the people who are running those startups look like?

Shelli: Yeah, I mean, we do get a lot of women that have come to Inlightened because, you know, they have had an experience with their own health or family member or, you know, especially with women, a lot of women have gone through fertility struggles or, you know, they've come postpartum and had a tough experience and they really want to do something to solve some of those problems. And so they come to Inlightened to access, you know, expertise because not everyone that innovates in healthcare comes from a background in healthcare. And I think that even if you do it is still incredibly difficult to know all there is to know about, you know, one area in healthcare, let alone multiple areas in healthcare. You know, I have a couple of specific Inlightened clients that are doing really interesting things in this space of kind of education and access that, you know, I'd love to highlight. So one of them is called Healthcare Data Analytics Institute or HDAI and they have this tool that is called Health Picture and it's a free web-based application that provides patients access to their own health care data, and they're helping patients become better informed about their current health and health-related risks as they give people the option to kind of loop in their doctors, and their caregivers for insight in shared decision-making. So, I actually had my parents get on the, the Health Picture app because I live in Boston, my parents live in, in Ohio and it's just really good for me to be able to kind of log on and have a quick kind of look at not only the visits that they've had recently, but the medications that they're taking and ultimately the predictive analytics in the Health Picture tool that kind of estimates some risks. And you know it's great for anyone who's looking to take better control of their health to have kind of that information in one place. And the fact that it's, you know, free and open to everyone is just to me a really, really excellent feature. Then we also have a partner with Inlightened that's doing really amazing things, I think, to empower patients. Their name is Savvy Co-op, and Savvy is empowering people to use their patient experiences to improve health innovations. And so, at Inlightened we talk a ton about getting the perspectives of diverse providers and healthcare professionals which is obviously incredibly important to healthcare innovation. You know, the goal is that they're treating diverse patients and that they bring their own diverse experience to the table as well. And that they have the clinical knowledge and background to be helpful. But with Savvy, it's really taking the perspective that including patients in the healthcare innovation process is incredibly important and it's not just including patients in clinical trials, but including them in the research and insight work, as well. And so, from the perspective of Savvy whether you have you're healthy or you have a chronic condition or you care for someone with a chronic condition, basically you can sign up and share your experience as a patient and you get rewards. The rewards are in the form of cash, gift cards, or discounts and coupons. And the real background story behind Savvy is that they are two founders who are also patients, who, you know, have some kind of chronic illnesses that they deal with and you know, they were tired of healthcare innovators designing projects and services without talking to patients first. And their whole goal was to restore power back to patients, to give them a voice and make sure that people were fairly valuing the insights of patients and they're really doing great things. And I do think that the industry is starting to finally recognize how important diverse provider and patient perspectives are to advancing health care innovation. And I think that, you know, Inlightened has clients that, you know, really range from, you know, stealth healthcare startups that are just beginning all the way to the larger pharmaceutical and device companies. And, you know, I think that what they have in common is they are focused on responsible disruption and they actually care about engaging, you know, those diverse perspectives.

Joyce: Yeah, I love what you're saying. I know Savvy, I've come across them in my own research and I think what they're doing is amazing, you know, offering us as patients an opportunity to go out there and have our voices be heard. It's really, yeah, it's real, it's really important. Can you, I know you just gave us some examples of some, of the some of the companies and so on, can do you mind if we go back for just a second to what you were saying about health literacy? I think it's something that's so important that we kind of, you know, as as consumers of healthcare, we kind of gloss over it, and I think there's a lot we can do to up our game individually about our health literacy. Maybe you can talk about that a little bit?

Shelli: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think that in the past and, you know, I'm, I'm also guilty of this, right? You assume that your doctor knows everything, and we just are easily kind of ignorant about our own health and, you know, doctors and clinicians are humans. Just like everyone else, some of them are really great at their job, some of them are not so great at their jobs. Regardless, right, they have a ton of patients that they're tasked with caring for and you as an individual, I think the onus is on us to take responsibility for our own health and you know health literacy is a huge part of that. You know, we need to do the, do the research to truly understand, you know, what is our body telling us, right? You know, learning to pay attention to your body and understand how things like diet and nutrition can contribute to either a healthy, you know, lifestyle or unfortunately, to chronic disease or illness. And there is more information out there than there ever has been, which I know can make it overwhelming for people. And that's why I think it's really important to seek out these specific resources, like HealthIQ and you know the MyFitnessPal app to educate yourself on health and wellness. You know, we need to take responsibility for our own health care and I think that the more that you understand your own body as well and you pay attention to those things, the better equipped you'll be to have a conversation with your physician about when something is wrong. And I think that some of the people that have suffered with illnesses or symptoms that clinicians are unable to really pinpoint, you know, the more that they're tracking what's going on with them and their own bodies and you know, I know that Tracey can speak to this as well, the better equipped they are to have those conversations with their clinicians and I think the better equipped the clinicians then become to help them, right. You know, they're, they're only privy to the information that you provide them about your day-to-day life and otherwise, you know, there's only so many tests you can run. And so I think that not only, you know, doing the research to up your health literacy, but also paying attention to your own body and journaling and tracking the things that are happening to you as well.

Tracey: And you've brought up a couple things that I've been thinking about, Shelli, especially, you know, we Journal My Health is based on the idea that we have all this data that we are spewing off of whether it's through collection in our cell phones or things that we can input into our own phone. Or platform. But we have all this information and I've been thinking really about how do we empower people to take a look at that data? No matter how many charts that we can create through, you know, working with the data. What can, you know, how do we help our users have a better understanding of what that data actually means. And then how to pose those questions. I feel like that's sort of the next step as we continue to bring this product to market. And, you know, I think that that's a really important piece of this, as well. So, what's, where's that bridge between patient doctor? And some of the correlations that I've been thinking about or analogies is how do I wind up speaking to developers, the software developer. I don't, I don't code but I have to be able to talk to them so that they could create a product. So I sort of feel like there's an analogy there. So, I've learned some, you know, how to do that. And there's various tools that we can put together, wireframes to bridge that gap. So I feel like there's that communication, that little language gap, and sometimes as patients, we may be I don't want to use the word afraid but maybe not as confident to talk to your doctor in that way.

Shelli: Yeah, absolutely. I think it can be intimidating and, you know, like that's why it is important to have a primary care provider that you feel comfortable with and that you have a good dialogue with. But I think the more that you take the time to, you know, engage yourself around some of these things in learning and health literacy, again, you'll feel better about going to your clinician with that because you, you know, you have taken the time to research and understand and, you know, you can speak that language a little bit better. You know, I think that just like you're not going to overnight be able to speak to a software developer in that tech language, you can, you know, figure out some of the jargon and vocabulary to transcribe your message to them in a little bit of a better way. And that's the same thing that we can do with, you know, upping our health literacy and speaking with clinicians. We can kind of learn the language to some extent so that we can have an intelligent conversation about our health.

Joyce: Right. Yes, right.

Tracey: We’re getting to the, you know, end of our time, and I wanted to see if anyone in the audience had a question. And if you, there's lots of chat here so, I appreciate that. If you don't, no worries. But you know, I think this conversation of how we can equip ourselves to continue to be better patients and be confident in having these conversations with our with our doctors and other healthcare providers is definitely something that's extremely important. You know, that's certainly a theme that we've been running with on our, on our Facebook lives and Shelli, I think it's great that you are helping maybe what we would term non-traditional healthcare innovators to come in and be able to take their ideas and figure out out how to bring them to life. We have one. Okay. Oh, Joyce. Will you post the apps and websites on your page?

Joyce: Yes. Absolutely. We'll post them. We will post all of them because they're I think they're just really important for everybody to to know about because it is key at the end of the day that we be able to ask questions of our providers and then ask our providers, like okay, what information should I be reading? What is the right information for me because you know, you could have a, you could have a condition but you may be in a different place in that, in your condition. And so, the content that you're reading, may not be exactly right for you. That's why I like what you're saying about the, about the app with the chat Buoy that help you get to a place of more specificity so that you come up with something that's more aligned with exactly where you are. So that's the key.

Tracey: And I do think that this points out that we as patients, as consumers, because we are consumers when we get right down to it even though we may not be in the best place at that time, we need to be more informed and we need to take the time to be more informed.

Joyce: Yeah.

Tracey: So.

Shelli: Feel empowered. Yeah.

Tracey: Yeah. Well that 30 minutes just went by very quickly. We thank you. Joyce, thanks for for sharing this the stage and Shelli, thank you so much for this view and would love maybe for you to come back with a couple of the groups that you're working with, some of the companies that you're working with, we could have some more conversations and highlight some other companies that are doing some really interesting work to help patients.

Shelli: Absolutely, I would love that and thank you so much for having me. This was great.

Joyce: Thanks so much.

Tracey: Thanks for everyone for joining us. And this will be posted to view again, so hopefully you can share with those in your networks. This is Tracey Welson-Rossman from Journal My Health signing off.

Joyce: Take care, everyone.