Sunday, 16 November 2014

Burning Man on the Digital Divide

You might imagine, as a heavy user of technology, that being on the non-technical side of the digital divide would be limiting. At Medicine X 2014 there was a panel discussion with various points of view on this topic and the person most identified with the non-tech side of the divide was Devon Low.  He is the only person I ever met who goes to Burning Man regularly.

He has no smartphone because in his neighbourhood that type of phone might make him the target of thieves. Other good reasons for his actions include economics and pragmatism, and also, living in an earthquake zone, a land line is more dependable for emergency preparedness. "What happens if the power goes out?"

Not being connected makes a difference to his health care. When he went to the local Emergency Room he thought he was suffering from asthma. After he was referred to Healthy San Francisco, a program designed to make health care services available and affordable to uninsured San Francisco residents, he saw a pulmonologist and found that he has COPD.

So you might wonder how he gets educated about his health with no wired devices. He showed us from the stage - he has a folder for each doctor but he can't track because all of his information is not available. Devon grabs and collects the information he is able to get but is it enough?

At this point  moderator Dana Lewis said there is a common theme here. "We're being designed for, not with." and Josh Nesbit talked about a CEO who said "Our product designer is best friends with our users" i.e. the users aren't heard. Most of the technology systems are great for anyone except the end user.

Across all platforms the users need to be invested and involved.
Then the conversation turned to reasons that people don't take their medications: It doesn't help that all the medicine packages look the same. We need more variety and consistency in colours and shape. Some people are very visual and tactile and screens are actually a barrier to reality and to connecting with the process.  Being underserved is more than a lack of access.

Consumers should decide, but patients need to know what is happening. Devon gave us an example of how things can go wrong when patients don't have enough information: He was prescribed asthma medication. This caused dry mouth and tooth loss. 

Community was described as "people who care more about others than they have to". That's a great way to put it.

I find it very much part of the theme that the only reason I have good notes from this session is I had no wifi access during the panel.

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